Showing posts with label Guest Bloggers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Guest Bloggers. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

CoRubrics - An Add-on to Facilitate Assessment Among Students

This week I am hosting guest posts. This one was authored by Jaume Feliu at the Salas i Xandri High School in Sant Quirze del Vallès, near Barcelona.

More and more rubrics are coming into the classroom for assessment. Rubrics are tools that encourage formative assessment, especially when students use them for self-assessment and peer assessment. But this co-evaluation can be a long and tedious process.

CoRubrics is a free add-on for Google Sheets, developed by a teacher. It is used to assess students (or groups of students) with a rubric and it also allows students to assess other students (co-evaluation).

First, teachers design the rubric they want to use in Google Sheets. Then they add the students' names and their email address (these can be imported from Google Classroom). Once this is done, the add-on will:
  • Create a Google Form with the contents of the rubric. 
  • Send the form to the students by email or simply provide the link to the teacher. 
  • Process the data once the form is filled out (by the students or by the teacher). 
  • Finally, send the results to the students (each student receives only his/her results) with a personalized comment.
The process is detailed below.

Once the add-on is installed, the add-on menu will guide you through the process.

The first step is to create the rubric template. Three sheets will be created where we will have to indicate the rubric, the students and the teachers’ names and emails. You can delete and add aspects and levels.





From here the process is really fast. Using the Corubrics menu the rubric form is created.



Students answer the form with their mobile phone or with their computer and the complement carries out all the calculation in order to obtain the results.



Finally, the rubric of result is sent to each student.



The following video shows the usage process:


Detailed information can be found at the following CoRubrics link and updates are published on the following CoRubrics Twitter account.

Jaume Feliu is a Teacher of Technology at the Salas i Xandri High School in Sant Quirze del Vallès, near Barcelona.

Blog: Tecnocentres
Twitter: @jfeliua

Passionate about education and technological training, I try to take advantage of ICT to improve the organization of the center, to facilitate the methodologies where the student is the main character of his/her learning and to improve the evaluation. In this sense, I have developed some complements (CoRubrics and ImExClass). I am convinced that, in order to improve education, we must constantly rethink what we are doing.

7 Tips for Moving from Decorating to Designing Classrooms

This week I am hosting guest posts. This is a guest post from Dr. Robert Dillon. I have been following Bob's work for the last few years and I am thrilled to host this guest post from him.

The images that we see of many “modern” classroom designs are filled with Pinterest-pretty decorations that aren’t based in the what we know to be brain-friendly learning spaces. Ideally, schools would be taking time to study and design with intention spaces that support excellent learning. Unfortunately, the social pressure to decorate classrooms is strong, and decorating classrooms is an inch deep solution that elicits the dopamine flow that comes with likes on Instagram, Facebook, and Snap. These cute, neat, and fancy solutions rarely equal great learning. As educators, we need to make sure that there is a sync between instructional practices that provide experiential learning, technology tools that support creation, and optimal learning environments. To accomplish this, consider the seven tips below to keep the focus on intentional design.

Know the Verbs
Design requires a human-centered lens that allows you to understand the true purpose of a space. When teachers and leaders know the verbs of their space, they have a deeper level of intentionality. Is your space designed to explore, investigate, and discover? Is your space designed to create, make, and tinker? This clarity makes decoration seem like frosting instead of missional.

Declutter the Parameter
Too many design initiatives move straight to the furniture, but the parameter of the room can have a greater influence on student learning. Posters and clutter can be distracting and lead to less engagement. Students rarely consciously notice the mess, but it impacts their comfort in the space. Having too much in a classroom can limit its flexibility as well. Try removing ten or more items from the space to let it breathe for students and their learning.

Focus on Student Feedback
So many spaces are designed FOR students as opposed to WITH students. Even if students aren’t a part of the initial design, they can be a part of the next iteration. Students need to be asked about the space. What is supporting their learning? What is inhibiting their learning? We often solve for problems that aren’t issues for students, and no matter the age, we have to drive changes into the learning space that are based on feedback.

Create a Maker Culture
If we keep designing makerspaces, isolated from classroom learning, with no plan to close them in lieu of a maker culture, we are building this decade’s computer lab. We need to instead think about creating a culture of making in every classroom. This doesn’t mean that we are putting 3D printers in every classroom, but maybe we are adding cardboard and low-tech creation items in all spaces. Allow students to showcase their learning in a variety of ways. Don’t limit making to space or specific time of the day.

Develop a Color Palette
Research continues to emerge that an intentional color palette enhances learning. Too many spaces look like a bag of skittles exploded with every color of the rainbow represented in the rugs, furniture, and items on the wall. Designers are looking for a base color with a couple of accent colors. Classroom decorators, though, are adding flare and pop, and this rarely helps with the focus or calm of a space.

Provide Choice with Coherence
Twenty-five of anything is the wrong answer. The idea that we would bring 25 yoga balls, 25 pedal bikes, or 25 desks into a modern learning space definitely lacks the level of design that we should be seeking. It is essential that students can choose the seating that meets their learning task and their learning style, but adding neat items to the classroom for novelty will get the undesired effect of students focused on furniture instead of their future.

Mind Brain Research into Space Design
The more decorated classrooms that appear on Instagram and Pinterest as model spaces to pursue for teachers, the more we wander from what we know about best practices in learning. Research may not get us likes and retweets, but it is essential that we are considering the principles of design that promote learning. Only with this information in the forefront of our efforts can we truly build student-friendly spaces.

Dr. Robert Dillon has served as a thought leader in education over the last twenty years as a teacher, principal, and director of innovation. Dr. Dillon has a passion to change the educational landscape by building excellent engaging schools for all students. Dr. Dillon serves on the Leadership Team for Connected Learning, a Saint Louis based organization designed to reshape professional development to meet today's needs. Dr. Dillon has had the opportunity to speak throughout the country at local, state, and national conferences as well as share his thoughts and ideas in a variety of publications. He is the author of four books on best practices in learning, Leading Connected Classrooms Engage, Empower, Energize: Leading Tomorrow's Schools Today, Redesigning Learning Space, and his most recent book on learning space design called The Space: A Guide for Educators.

Dr. Robert Dillon - rdillon25@gmail.com - @drrobertdillon - drrobertdillon.com

Friday, November 2, 2018

Last Call for Guest Bloggers

Earlier this week I put out my annual call for guest bloggers. Tonight at midnight (Eastern time) is the deadline to apply to guest post on Free Technology for Teachers. If you would like to be a guest blogger this November please read on and then complete the form below.

I'm looking for guest bloggers who can share stories of current experiences using technology in their schools. Guest bloggers should be current classroom teachers, teacher-librarians, technology integration coaches, or school-level administrators. I would like to share stories of trying new things (apps, websites, strategies) and what you and your students learned from the experience. If you can tell the story in 500 words or less or with a video, that's a bonus. While I cannot pay you for your post, I will include links to your blog or website and include a short bio about you. Past guest bloggers have reported still getting traffic to their blogs more than a year after their posts appeared.

Please note that the last time I put out a call for guest bloggers, more than 100 people responded in 48 hours. I wish that I could publish all of the posts, but I simply cannot do that. I'll select 20 to 25 posts at the most. I will send notifications to accepted guest bloggers by November 4th.


Monday, October 29, 2018

Guest Bloggers Wanted

Once a year I host guest bloggers for a week. This year I'm doing that during the week of November 11th. In past years I have had some awesome guest bloggers who went to to boost their own blogs by having their work appear on Free Technology for Teachers. If you would like to be a guest blogger this November please read on and then complete the form below.

I'm looking for guest bloggers who can share stories of current experiences using technology in their schools. Guest bloggers should be current classroom teachers, teacher-librarians, technology integration coaches, or school-level administrators. I would like to share stories of trying new things (apps, websites, strategies) and what you and your students learned from the experience. If you can tell the story in 500 words or less or with a video, that's a bonus. While I cannot pay you for your post, I will include links to your blog or website and include a short bio about you. Past guest bloggers have reported still getting traffic to their blogs more than a year after their posts appeared.

Please note that the last time I put out a call for guest bloggers, more than 100 people responded in 48 hours. I wish that I could publish all of the posts, but I simply cannot do that. I'll select 20 to 25 posts at the most. I will send notifications to accepted guest bloggers by November 4th.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Wanted! Guest Bloggers

It has been two years since I last hosted guest posts from teachers and principals so it's time that I do it again. This time I am going to run guest posts in the last two weeks of the month. In the past I've had some awesome guest bloggers share their knowledge and experience with us. If you would like to be a guest blogger please read on and complete the form below.

I'm looking for guest bloggers who can share current (2016/2017) experiences of using technology in their schools. Guest bloggers should be current classroom teachers, teacher-librarians, technology integration coaches, or school-level administrators. I would like to share stories of trying new things (apps, websites, strategies) and what you and your students learned from the experience. If you can tell the story in 500 words or less or with a video, that's a bonus. While I cannot pay you for your post, I will include links to your blog or website and include a short bio about you. Past guest bloggers have reported still getting traffic to their blogs more than a year after their posts appeared.

Please note that the last time I put out a call for guest bloggers, more than 100 people responded in 48 hours. I wish that I could publish all of the posts, but I simply cannot do that. I'll select 25 to 30 posts at the most. I will send notifications to accepted guest bloggers by October 11th.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Creating Concrete and Shape Poems on iPads

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Debbie Carona.

April was National Poetry Month but not all of us finished our poetry units during April. Thanks to a few too many snow days, Mary Odom, our 4th grade language arts teacher wisely let the kids work on their original poems well into the month of May. I was lucky enough to be the tech person working with her class on creating individual poetry books using the Book Creator app and helping the kids with their concrete poem illustrations. Another name for a concrete poem is a shape poem. It’s basically where the shape of the poem plays an important role in expressing the topic or meaning of the poem. Our kids have always loved to write and design their concrete poems but with the help of the Type Drawing App, their options have hugely increased.

With Type Drawing, the kids type their poem or just a line or phrase from their poem and then draw the words with their finger. Your finger can create randomly shaped lines or it can draw horizontal, vertical, or diagonal lines. You may choose from a nice selection of font styles, sizes, and colors. You determine whether or not you want the lines of your poem to repeat and how much, if any, space you want between your words.


Learning with the Type Drawing App for iPad from April Requard on Vimeo.


Another great feature of Type Drawing is the ability to add a photo from your camera roll. After uploading the photo, go ahead and type the lines of your poem, making the above mentioned design choices. Then simply trace the photo with your finger. You can add lines to fill in the details of the picture. If you want the photo to disappear and be left with only the lines of the concrete poem, move the photo opacity line to 0%. You can also use the photo opacity line to simply fade the photo.Take a look at these original concrete poems that I put together using the Puppet Edu app.



So, next year when National Poetry Month rolls around, share Shel Silverstein’s concrete poem, “The Circle”, with your students. Then let the Type Drawing app inspire your kids to write and illustrate their own concrete poetry.

Debbie Carona spent the first 20 years of her teaching as a classroom teacher. For the past 8 years, she has been a technology integration specialists at St. John’s Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas. St. John’s is beginning their 4th year as a 1:1 iPad school and is a major proponent of project based learning. According to her, the best part of being a tech teacher is being invited to go into the classrooms and work alongside the teachers. Please visit Debbie’s blog site, At a Glance, and follow her on Twitter @DebbieCarona.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Teaching Mathematics With a Surface Pro Tablet

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Bryan Davis.

For the last 6 years I have done all of my teaching on a tablet Windows PC. I have really liked using the tool for these reasons. I can have a digital copy of all of my lessons sync to all of my computers and be instantly searchable. Since my lesson was already digital I could easily upload it to my website. I could use any computer program (graphing utilities, geometric or algebraic drawing utilities, Excel, and more) in my lesson seamlessly.

But up until last year there was a drawback. I could never leave my podium for a couple of reasons. First, the computer did not have a way to wirelessly stream the video output to the projector. Also, the computer was not small enough to just pick up and walk around with using only one hand.

One of the best things about technology is how the tools we use are constantly changing. Last year I updated my school computer to a Surface Pro 2. The portability of this computer is incredible! I was inspired to look into ways of untethering myself from my podium. I originally used the software program AirParrot to send the video to my Apple TV. And while that solution was good, it was rather processor intensive and would drain the battery pretty quickly. Just recently I started using a Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter, which Windows 8 natively supports (the streaming stick uses the Miracast wireless streaming protocol). This setup has a much smaller drain on my battery which means more time away from my podium!

So now I walk around the classroom and have the ability to project anything I want on my screen. I use the camera to show student work directly from the desk of the student. I give my lesson from the front, middle and back of the class, sitting down anywhere to do my thing. I can quickly show any computer tool to help explain a concept. This tool has helped me be a better teacher.


Additional Resources:
Tablet PC List
Examples of Posted Lessons


About Bryan: I am a teacher of math, physics, and engineering at Healdsburg High School in beautiful Northern California. I have been teaching for 10 years. I have also had jobs as a software engineer and a test engineer. But my passion is education. I have really been trying to take elements of play and bring it into my classroom. Watch children play… they will try something, they might fail, but they fail safely. And then they try something else. And they will keep trying until they are successful. Isn’t that also what we want to see in our classrooms? I like to believe that this addition of play in my classroom is visible and making a difference for students.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Wanted! Guest Bloggers

Once a year I put out a call for guest bloggers and share those posts for a week. This year, I'm going to run those posts during the week of June 1st. Over the last six years I've had some awesome guest bloggers share their knowledge and experience with us. If you would like to be a guest blogger please read on and complete the form below.

I'm looking for guest bloggers who can share current (2014/2015) experiences of using technology in their schools. Guest bloggers should be current classroom teachers, teacher-librarians, technology integration coaches, or school-level administrators. I would like to share stories of trying new things (apps, websites, strategies) and what you and your students learned from the experience. If you can tell the story in 600 words or less, that's a bonus. While I cannot pay you for your post, I will include links to your blog or website as well as a short bio about you. Past guest bloggers have reported still getting traffic to their blogs more than a year after their posts appeared.

Please note that the last time I put out a call for guest bloggers, more than 100 people responded in 48 hours. I wish that I could publish all of the posts, but I simply cannot do that. I'll select 25 to 30 posts at the most. I will send notifications to accepted guest bloggers by May 25th.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Good Chrome Extensions for Students with Disabilities

This week I am giving some guest bloggers the opportunity to share their experiences with you. This is a guest post from Clint Winter. 

I am lucky because I get to be an Instructional Technologist in the Clarke County School District in Athens, Georgia. Our school district is a 1:1 district in grades 3 to 8. Also, we are a Google Apps for Education District. Our teachers are using electronic devices in order to better differentiate for our students. I have been working with our district Assistive Technology Team to help identify useful chrome extensions for our students with disabilities. We like chrome extensions because our students can sign into their chrome browser and take their extensions with them! Our team decided to focus on the areas of organization and accessibility when finding extensions for our students with disabilities.

Since we are also a Google Apps District many of our teachers are encouraging their students to become better organizers with the Save to Google Drive Extension. This extension is very beneficial for our students. Students can quickly save web pages and images straight to their google drive to be able to evaluate later. Also, for organization, our students are utilizing the Google Calendar Extension. Google Calendar extension allows our students to set reminders on their calendar to turn in assignments, have classroom materials ready, and also to receive a daily agenda of what they will be doing for the day. This helps our students better plan out their day. Many of our students that we serve have deficits with organization and these two tools are helping to overcome that barrier.

For some of our students with reading deficits we are using Chrome Speak or Announcify to have web content read aloud. Students like Announcify because the text that is being read aloud is the main focus of the screen. Also, we use Readability to help students with print deficits. This extension removes the clutter from a webpage and focuses on the main article. Our students can choose to make the text larger or smaller based on their needs. These extensions are helping us make our 1:1 devices accessible for everyone.

Differentiation is a crucial part in a 1:1 environment. Chrome extensions are dismantling barriers that have long been put in place. Students with disabilities typically have teachers or peers assisting with gaining access to curriculum, such as having to be called out of the room to have text read aloud or being pulled for a class to work on organization skills. With the use of Chrome extension our students with disabilities are gaining independence and are in control of accessing the curriculum which fits their best learning style.

Clint Winter is an Instructional Technology Specialist with the Clarke County School District in Athens, GA. Before working in Instructional Technology Clint taught Middle School Special Education for 12 years. You can follow Clint on Twitter @ClintWinter.

Your Principal Dismisses the Value of Technology in Your Classroom...Now What?

This week I am giving some guest bloggers space to share their experiences. This is a guest post from Alicia Roberts. 

Communication is king. But what happens when your message is vetoed from the top before you can share with the masses? Here is the story (from my perspective) of how we should all consider rewriting the definition of the value of technology in the 21st century.

I could see my students using technology for entertainment, social networking and balancing their schedules all day long...and yet my campus wouldn’t support harnessing that same technology for classroom application. Dismissed and discouraged...what was I to do?

Searching through academic solutions to my problem I stumbled upon The Broader Value of Communication (link opens as a PDF) and came across this fantastic observation...

The poorer you are, the more valuable communication is. People with little money are often willing to spend up to 40 percent of their earnings on mobile services. To them, each call is an investment from which they expect a positive return. And the value of communication is by no means only monetary.

I knew the students on my campus understood the concept well. My students attached great value to mobile services they believed increased the size of their social network, improved their GPA’s through access to relevant material, and provided them a global market to barter within. Many of the students on campus did not have money, but they embraced the value of being plugged in without hesitation. The same was true for a large portion of the staff.

Using my new found perspective I re-coined the phrase technology integration to something a little more well defined: Technology for a Purpose. The “buy in” on campus was based on the idea that technology use didn’t have to be high tech. “Technology” was not the important thing; the important thing was using “it” in the right way. Empowering students and staff to refine their use of technology as a well developed tool of communication was and is the noble cause I had been trying to articulate without success.

I am now enjoying watching the fruits of a collaborative integration of student devices. The ideas shared below won’t require money, teacher in-service hours, or rewriting a curriculum map. Just time :) And honestly, I found that it didn’t take long before that first inch of progress turned into a country mile of success.

Alicia Roberts is the Instructional Technology Specialist at Paradise Valley Christian Prep in Phoenix, AZ and EDU Development Specialist at Grand Canyon University. For more tools and trends check out Teach2Inspire.com!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Guest Bloggers Wanted!

Once a year I put out a call for guest bloggers and share those posts for a week. This year, I'm going to run those posts on May 19th through 24th. Over the last five years I've had some awesome guest bloggers share their knowledge and experience with us. If you would like to be a guest blogger please read on and complete the form below.

I'm looking for guest bloggers who can share current (2013/2014) of their experiences of using technology in their schools. Guest bloggers should be current classroom teachers, teacher-librarians, technology integration coaches, or school-level administrators. I would like to share stories of trying new things (apps, websites, strategies) and what you and your students learned from the experience. If you can tell the story in 600 words or less, that's a bonus. While I cannot pay you for your post, I will include links to your blog or website as well as a short bio about you. Past guest bloggers have reported still getting traffic to their blogs more than a year after their posts appeared.

Please note that the last time I put out a call for guest bloggers, more than 100 people responded in 48 hours. I wish that I could publish all of the posts, but I simply cannot do that. I'll select 25 to 30 posts at the most. 

If you are a representative of a company, please do not complete this form.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Finding great Google Apps information but, no time to research it? - Guest Post

If you are a Google Apps Newbie like me you are both excited and overwhelmed by all the amazing and free Google Apps for Education tools that can used in your professional life and with teachers and students. How is it possible at the start of all this to find the time to understand Google Drive, Calendar, Forms, and Sites and all their best features?

This is our district’s first year pilot into “Going Google.” As part of the team overseeing the launch of Google Apps for our district I have found hundreds of great reads on Google Apps. However, I never seem to have the time just then to give the read its full attention. Therefore I have found some specific things that have really helped me to save and read all this great information later in the time I have outside my other responsibilities.

Twitter
Twitter has been invaluable for learning new things in Google Apps and keeping up on the latest updates. I need something quick and to the point when I check my Twitter feed on my phone at lunch or when I am settling down for the night watching TV. Did you know Google Forms just refreshed their look with updated and more user friendly features? Do you know what the Five Essential Google Drive skills are for teachers? When did the entire Chicago Public School system just switch over to Google Apps? I wouldn’t have known any of this unless I saw these articles via Twitter. If you don’t have the time to read them at the time just “Favorite” them in your Twitter account and get to them when you can. Here are some great people to follow on Twitter concerning Google Apps:

Richard Byrne https://twitter.com/rmbyrne
Eric Curts https://twitter.com/ericcurts
Jamie Casap https://twitter.com/jcasap
Kyle Pace https://twitter.com/kylepace
Mikkel Storaasli https://twitter.com/LeydenASCI
Don Wielinga https://twitter.com/Wielinga1
Google At Work https://twitter.com/GoogleAtWork - not a person but, an informative feed

Pocket (Formerly Read it Later)
The free Pocket app which I use on my desktop, laptop, and phone allows me to simply save anything I find on the web in a neat organized list. I have found hundreds of articles, web sites, videos, tweets, and blog posts concerning Google Apps which I want to read and research but, at the time cannot do. The Pocket app or Pocket Google Chrome extension allows me to get to them later on all of my devices. Check www.getpocket.com

Email a Google Apps School
Yes. Good old email. Check out the Google Apps User Guide which lists Google Apps schools and contacts throughout the country. I have yet to find someone using Google Apps who was unwilling to help me out with a question when they find the time: http://www.appsusergroup.org/school/by-list

Rob McCann is the Director of Curriculum and Student Assessment at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School in Marlboro, MA. Rob is part of the team overseeing Assabet’s first year pilot program with Google Apps for Education. You can contact Rob by email at rmccann@assabet.org and check out his new blog at http://avedutec.blogspot.com/

Monday, February 4, 2013

Guest Bloggers Wanted

In a couple of weeks I will be going away to Moosehead Lake, Maine for my annual ice fishing trip. It's the one time each year that I truly unplug from the Internet. For the last four years I've been fortunate to have some great guest bloggers share their stories while I'm unplugged. This year I'm hoping to have some more guest bloggers share their knowledge and experience on February 17 through 19. If you would like to be a guest blogger please read on and complete the form below.

I'm looking for guest bloggers who can share their experiences using technology in their schools. If you can tell the story in 600 words or less, that's a bonus. While I cannot pay you for your post, I will include links to your blog or website as well as a short bio about you. Past guest bloggers have reported still getting traffic to their blogs more than a year after their posts appeared.

If you are a representative of a company, please do not complete this form.

February 8, 2013 - The form has been closed. All who submitted responses will be contacted shortly.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Beyond the App - You Found an App, Now What?

This is a guest post from Sarah Emerling.

With all of the technology integration and the plethora of academic apps flooding the market, the time is ripe for teachers to take advantage of these teaching tools.  More and more, classrooms are incorporating iPods and iPads into everyday instruction.  This is such a gift for today’s students.  There is no denying that iDevices, when used efficiently, are some of our greatest teaching tools.  However, using this technology for effective instruction is a challenge that teachers need to face and accept.

There is a prolific amount of educational apps available for teachers and schools.  From simple flash card type math drills, to more elaborate science instruction and quiz format games, there are just too many apps to detail in any single blog post.  Still, apps alone do not make an efficient instructional tool.  By all means, teach the students how to use them, put them into practice, and utilize their brilliance, but without instruction, the apps are just another support device, not a teaching tool.  iDevices can be used in so many other ways, and as a student-driven instructional tool, they can’t be beat.  

Change how you deliver information
With the big push to increase the level of rigor in classrooms, note-making is an easy and engaging way to have students create their own notes, instead of simply copying down information given to them.  Utilize podcasts (either create your own using Keynote or Powerpoint or download free podcasts from iTunesU) and have students generate their own notes.  Give students a short podcast as an introduction to a topic and a time limit.  Students watch the podcast and create their own notes showing ownership of the knowledge instead of simply being given the information.  Additionally, students love the change from a teacher lecturing to holding the instruction in their hands.

Expand the definition of “text”
Text comes in so many formats; authors don’t necessarily write books.  Show students that the world is full of text by connecting with them on a musical level.  Use songs and music videos to teach literary concepts like author’s purpose, figurative language, and story elements (all while being careful of copyright law).  Students respond to the connection of language arts concepts to popular music.  By putting the music or the video on an iPod students are fully immersed in the experience, and therefore in the text.  Using this type of instruction is particularly helpful for non-readers or low-level readers.  For a student who struggles to read, upper level literacy skills can be difficult.  By giving the student text that is auditory, it takes away the struggle to read and puts the focus on the comprehension skills.

Make movies . . . and much much more
The newest generations of the iPod and iPad come with cameras and internal microphones.  Using these tools, students can create any number of projects, again addressing the synthesis level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Using the microphone, younger students can record weekly fluency reads for the purpose of teacher conferencing or running records.  Teachers can also have students record exit slips telling what they learned, additional questions, or summarizing the lesson.  Utilize the camera to have students vodcast.  Video-casting is a fun way for students to express opinions.  Vodcasting impressions of a book, or the details from an historical event is an engaging way to make predictions or analyze thoughts.  Have students create their own movies for any number of reasons - propaganda lessons in social studies, animated book reviews, or student led lessons on math topics.  Putting the devices in the hands of the students ultimately leads to creation-based learning at a level that can’t be delivered solely by a teacher.

Ultimately, putting an iDevice in the hands of students without proper guidance or instruction can lead to play and fun, but not always learning.  Using apps, and apps alone, with solid teaching can absolutely be beneficial to students.  But with the wealth of other resources that iPods and iPads offer, to only use them for apps is underutilizing this valuable tool.  The assortment of student-created products that can be conceived by using the other features of the iDevices is limitless.  It puts the ownership of knowledge into the students hands and makes for better instruction and ultimately better thinkers. 

Sarah Emerling is a special education teacher and a technology coach in Aiken County, South Carolina.  You can follow her technology integration as she chronicles her iLessons in a new blog: http://ilessonlady.wordpress.com/. She also writes app reviews for http://www.funeducationalapps.com/.   You can contact her at sbemerling@gmail.com or follow her school tech and apps boards on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/butler5/

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Guests Welcome - Do You Want to Write a Guest Post?

Back in February I opened up some time for guest bloggers to contribute to Free Technology for Teachers. In a few weeks I hope to run a week of guest posts again. I'm going on a mountain biking vacation during the first week of July and would love to have some new voices share their advice and experiences here.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on Free Technology for Teachers during the week of July 1-7 here are the details on what I'm looking for:

1. I'm looking for people who have not written guest posts for me before. I want to give new people a chance to have their voices heard. 
2. I'm looking for people who are willing to share examples of how they have used technology in their schools as a teacher, teacher-librarian, media specialist, or administrator. 
3. I'm not looking for list style posts like this one, I've got that covered. 
4. If you're a paid representative of a company, thank you for your interest, but this is not an opportunity for you to promote your product or service. Click here if advertising is what you're after. 
5. People who can heed this advice from Darren Rowse about guest blogging.

What you can get out of this:
1. Exposure to an audience of more than 46,000 subscribers. Past guest bloggers have reported seeing significant upturns in visits to their blogs and or Twitter profiles after guest posting here. Even if you're just starting to blog or be active in social media, please don't let that discourage you.
2. My undying gratitude. 
3. If we meet up at a conference, I'll buy you the beverage of your choice.

If you've read all of the above information and are interested in guest posting, please complete the form below. I will close this form once I have filled all of the guest posting slots. I'm looking for 20-25 posts for the week. Last time I opened up to guest posts I had more than 50 submissions in 12 hours and took the form down after 24 hours. If the form is up, I'm still accepting submissions. Please don't email me with guest post proposals.

Update: I took down the form at 9am on June 16. There was a great response and today I am making contact with everyone who submitted a proposal. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

How Twitter Helps Overcome Inequity With Rural Internet Access

Last week was guest post week here, but I messed up on the scheduling of one post by Tanis Thiessen. Therefore, I'm starting the week with one last guest post.


While it seems like “all the world” is accessing the internet freely and quickly these days, the truth is that there are still areas in Canada where high speed internet is unavailable. In our rural K-12 school in southern Manitoba, approximately 20% of our community has access to the internet only through dial-up, with the rest having access through high-speed connections. So how can we communicate in a timely fashion, using technology to reach ALL of our community, when dial-up is an obstacle? The answer--tweet!

Set up your school with a twitter account, and all your stakeholders--parents, students, board members, the community--can easily get up-to-date information on their handheld devices. We regularly use our Twitter account to send out calendar updates, school assembly information, articles on current topics in education, and “what’s happening in class now” pictures.

           Sports events, dramas, concerts, in-class projects, new equipment, guest speakers, monthly themes are all highlighted. Through short tweets and quick pix, community members stay connected to the pulse of the school.


We try to make our account easy to find, adding a “Follow Us On Twitter” button to our wiki page (http://thecreek.pbworks.com). This is an easy way to guide people to our Twitter account, and bonus is that these buttons are free from many sources on the ‘net. (Ours came from Twitter Buttons, http://www.twitterbuttons.com).

Realizing that Twitter limits our interactions by the brevity of the posts, we try to make our communications with the community as multi-faceted as possible. We send email attachments of our newsletter and monthly calendar to parents who request it, while posting it on our wiki makes it accessible to those who prefer that venue. Teachers use Edmodo, Moodle, Google Docs, and the school’s wiki to provide various methods for students to stay up-to-date on classwork and utilize their tech skills to meet educational outcomes.

Twitter is a great way to keep stakeholders informed of your school activities. Parents appreciate the calendar updates; students appreciate the pictures and links to cool websites; businesses supporting our students through apprenticeship appreciate the free advertising given through mentions in tweets throughout the year. In an area where dial-up could prevent timely communication, Twitter helps overcome this rural inequity.

Elm Creek School, part of Prairie Rose School Division in south-central Manitoba, is a K-12 school of approximately 200 students and 16 teachers. Our building is nestled in the small but robust community of Elm Creek, 40 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, capital of Manitoba. Our school provides a wide variety of programming for students, utilizing interactive TV connections for some classes, online coursework for others, technical-vocational opportunities through Carman Collegiate just 15 minutes south of us, and in-house teacher-led coursework. We have three Smartboards, 1:3 computer-to-student ratio, a high school science lab with university-grade equipment, two computer labs, a gymnasium with mezzanine for weight training, and a canteen that serves homemade lunch specials daily.

Elm Creek School has a thriving daycare and preschool program run by a community group that uses our building, and we offer some adult coursework in the evenings. We have an elementary music program, a high school band and choir program, technology courses, career and technology studies with apprenticeships available through community partnerships, and an incredibly supportive Parent Advisory Council that has upgraded our outdoor play spaces and will soon be upgrading one of our two computer labs in the building.

About the Guest Blogger
Tanis Thiessen is a school administrator in Elm Creek, Manitoba. You can follow the Elm Creek School Twitter feed here

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Creating an Online Classroom With Posterous - Guest Post

© Nathan Hall
Before becoming an English language teacher, I had primarily worked in the photographic industry as a salesperson, manager, and teacher/trainer. I was a prime example of the old adage, “those who don’t, teach” since I don’t have an artistic bone in my body (I blame my older sister for taking all the talent with her when she was born). My focus was on the technical skills, helping people learn how to use their cameras, especially during the seismic shift from film to digital. Once I started teaching English, I thought I would never again have the opportunity to use my photographic knowledge in the classroom. I was wrong.

Shortly after moving to a new city and starting a new teaching position at a language school, I was approached with the idea of starting an English and photography class. I had never even considered the idea before, but since I was in the middle of a curriculum development class for my MA TESOL, I thought it might be an idea to explore further. I scratched out a few ideas and started planning my course with the idea of integrating the four main language skills into a content-based photography class. Knowing that it would involve a fair amount of technology, I sought out a place online for the students and myself to post and share what we were learning and creating during the course. It would be a spot where I could post classwork, lectures, and homework and the students could share their creative projects, presentations, and homework. That was when I came across Posterous.


There is a plethora of blogging and online website creation options such as Wikispaces, Blogger, Wordpress, etc., but I wasn't overly impressed with how each of these sites handled images and documents and didn't feel that they were simple enough for what I was asking the students to do in the class. I wanted a place where photos could be displayed in a gallery type viewer, presentations could be watched, and documents such as PDFs could be read and downloaded. Sure, some of these sites could do this with the help of other online tools such as Flickr, Picasa, or Scribd, but I wanted it to be straightforward and simple for the students.


With Posterous, I can integrate photos into the post as a gallery, upload documents and presentations directly into the post for the students to view and download, and students can contribute and comment. All of this could be done without third party plugins or storage limits.

The following are some of main features of Posterous I think that could be useful in the classroom.



Mobile use: With mobile apps for iOS and Android, it is easy for students to read, post, and comment directly from their smartphones. Students even posted pictures and did homework directly on their phones. Also, each Posterous site is automatically created into a mobile site making it easy for the teacher to create interactive classroom sites that students can view anywhere. I even have some of my students doing their homework on the bus ride home. 
© Nathan Hall


Embedded files: Posterous automatically embeds files such as videos, audio files, documents, and photos without installing any plugins or using HTML codes. Photos are put into a gallery that can be viewed fullscreen, PPT presentation are converted and can be played fullscreen as well, and videos and audio files are put into their own players to be used directly on the site. This is really helpful when you want to have students give presentations on a SmartBoard, give them listening homework, or you just want to use something in class. Also, there is no limitation on the amount of space you can use for the files.


Simplicity: Everything on the site is meant to be used with the minimum amount of learning. While other sites are more flexible in regards to expansion and customization, the functions of Posterous are more than enough for a class site while making it easy on learners to use.

Integration with social media: Posterous allows for autoposting to various social networks and also has links at the bottom of each post for sharing on Twitter and Facebook. This can be turned off quite easily if the teacher wants to remove it. I found it was nice for students to be able to share their work on their favorite social network and gave them a sense of pride regarding their work.



Email posting: This is an excellent option if a teacher doesn't want to make students register for Posterous. I had one class where I had the students email in their homework to the site instead of web posting. The email posts did not appear on the site unless I moderated it. This way, I didn't have to give my students my email address and they could ask questions at any time. Email posts with attachments will automatically embed the files into the post.

Posting information from other sites: Posterous has a wonderful bookmarklet that allows users to post text, videos, or photos directly from other sites. This can be used in a WebQuest style format and then students can comment on each others discoveries.

Price: Free. Can't get any better than that. Oh, and ad free, too.



Posterous can also be a helpful tool for professional development. Our school has started using a Posterous site for teachers to share ideas and post questions. The ease of adding and removing contributors to the site make it a great place to collaborate on and search for ideas to use in the classroom. Teachers can also have separate sites as well to share their ideas to educators beyond their own school.

No, Posterous isn't perfect, but it certainly works much better than most of the tools out there, even those you have to purchase. As education moves more and more online, sites such as Posterous could play a valuable role for smaller institutions that can't afford a large scale integrated IT operations.

Have you used Posterous in the classroom? What has been your experience? Do you have anything to add?



About the Guest Blogger
Nathan Hall is an ESL instructor with Global Village Calgary in Alberta, Canada. He will be completing his MA TESOL at Trinity Western University in April 2012. He has taught in five countries, including 4 years in Klaipeda, Lithuania as an English in the workplace instructor. He is an advocate for using technology in the classroom and has given various PD sessions on the topic. He can be found online on his blog, nathanhall.ca and on Twitter, @nathanghall

Teaching in a 1:1 Environment in Maine - Guest Post

Editor's note: Whenever I travel out of Maine, teachers ask me about Maine's 1:1 MacBook program for middle schools. Since I don't teach in a middle school, I thought it would be good to share the perspective of a Maine middle school teacher. 

The great thing about teaching with technology is that it can open new doors for your students. However, you have to be willing to walk through that door with them in order to see those benefits. Since you’re reading a blog entitled “Free Technology for Teachers,” I’m guessing you’re already there.

The trap too many of us fall in to with technology is that we’re just doing the same things we’ve always done, except now there’s a computer involved. Sure, there are some “21st Century Skills” that students achieve (often times we falsely assume through osmosis), but at the end of the day, showing video clips on Youtube is no different than popping a video in the old VCR.

Likewise, much of the same classroom management challenges we faced before we introduced laptops to our students are still there and are manifesting themselves in new ways. Too often I hear teachers blaming these classroom management problems on the technology itself, rather than the real root causes. Texting is just note passing. Even with technology, you still need clear and consistent expectations, engaging lessons, and an understanding of how the adolescent mind works.

In my room, the desks are arranged in groups that face each other to encourage collaboration among students. Some teachers dictate how their classrooms should be physically arranged based on the need to “see” every student’s screen. I made my decision based on what I felt would be best for my students in the long run, not the need to have a semblance of control (an extra benefit is that it encourages me to move more in my classroom to assist students and monitor their activity instead of sitting at my desk and staring at the back of my students’ heads).

To really revolutionize our classrooms, we have to fully embrace Web 2.0. At the end of the day though, the things that make Web 2.0 great- collaboration, peer feedback, real-world application- are the things that have always been the key ingredients to great teaching. The upper levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy don’t change because you’re connected to the internet. It’s the fact that you can now access and create content on an international level, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, that makes it truly powerful.

In the past, great teachers have struggled to engage their “hard to teach” kids across the learning spectrum. However, we now have a limitless amount of resources at their fingertips. We live in an age of self-guided learning, where students can access huge amount’s of college-level material from MIT and Yale. If the technology your student needs isn’t out there, they can create (and monetize) their very own app to get the job done! The possibilities, for once, truly are endless.

We have always known that learning never stops, but now we have an incredible amount of resources that make it easier than ever before. If you’re a great teacher, you’ll still build your learning activities with those key elements like you’ve always done, except that the doors you open for your students will be more limitless than ever before. 



About the Guest Blogger
Ryan Reed is a second-year middle school teacher in Maine, where seventh and eighth grade public-school students and teachers have been provided Apple laptop computers for the last decade. You can connect with him on Twitter.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Web 2.0 Collaborative Projects in the Middle School

I am the library media specialist for my school and part of my job is to assist my faculty with the integration of technology in the curriculum. As such, I am always searching for new ideas to use in collaborating with my classroom teachers. Showcased below are a few of the Web 2.0 tools I have used with classes along with details of specific projects I have helped students to produce.


Cacoo is a free online diagraming tool which allows real-time collaboration. Teachers can sign up for a free Academic Plan which allows them to add student users. *Please note the Academic Plan is free through June 30, 2012 after which it will be half the price of the Team Plan.

The Project:
After studying Georgia's barrier islands for the term, students used Cacoo to create a food web of native plants and animals. The class was divided into groups of four students. All four students in each group had individual Cacoo accounts and were required to work collaboratively via Cacoo to design one food web. As an added challenge, group members were not allowed to talk about the project but were required to “chat” online within their Cacoo accounts instead.



My Observations:
Teaching the kids how to use the program took half a class period as students caught on very quickly. We had a few problems with students returning permission forms, forgetting passwords, and one group not working well together. Since group activities and the guidelines for group work were very familiar to students, group problems were quickly resolved. I found no technology problems with Cacoo at all and will use the tool with future projects. I do wish they would reconsider the upcoming price increase for the Academic Plan.

Weebly is a free site which allows users to create websites and blogs using widgets. Weebly for Education enables teacher users to create free accounts for students to build their own websites.

The Project:
After studying all year about New York City, our 8th grade gifted groups take a five-day guided bus tour to the Big Apple. Upon their return, students create websites about their trip and are required to use their own digital images. Requirements include at least four categorized pages on the site and a minimum of 10 articles about New York City.

My Observations:
Teaching classes to use Weebly took one class period and required mini-sessions during the week-long project for some reteaching of the multimedia and blog sidebar items. Good web design techniques(compared to bad) as well as using complementary color schemes were also a part of the lesson. Since students had been studying the topic all year, they already had a vision for the content. As soon as I completed instruction, kids quickly got to work on their designs. Weebly was a very simple tool for their websites and I would use with students again.

Photo Story 3 is a free software download from Microsoft which enables users to create slideshows using your own digital pictures. The program allows you to edit photos, include text, add motion, insert narration, and create your own soundtrack. Please note the program is  Windows-based and is not available for Mac.

The Project:
Students created book trailers on their favorite fiction book to share. Similar to movie trailers, a book trailer is a video advertisement for a book produced to encourage viewers to read it.

My Observations:
I always start with a project introduction a week before we begin working with Photo Story 3. To grab their attention, I show several examples of trailers and talk about persuasive advertising techniques. Students work on storyboarding for the next week in the classroom to graphically organize their thoughts. Once they come back to the media center, teaching how to use Photo Story 3 takes one full class period before they can begin creating their book trailers. More details including examples, a rubric, and a project timeline can found on my book trailer post.

One of my 8th graders chose to create his book trailer on Peak by Roland Smith.


Fotoflexer is a free online image editor which allows you to perform basic editing options as well as some advanced features. You can create an account to save a project you are currently working on to login later to complete.  


The Project:
Students must select an online image to edit and employ techniques taught during the Fotoflexer Media Literacy lesson.


My Observations:
Most of my students have no idea how much editing is done to photos. I start my lesson by showing some before and after celebrity photos. We discuss that our perceptions of a normal body image are impacted negatively by these examples. 





I also show classes how edited photos are used to manipulate the way we think. After our class discussion, I show students how the pros edit photos. 


I use Fotoflexer because it is very simple to use but it also has some advanced features under the “Geek” tab. My favorite tool is the Smart Scissors which allows you to cut out a portion of an image for placement in another. The kid’s favorite is the distort tab which allows a plus-sized model to lose 30 pounds with one mouse click.


About the Guest Blogger:
Denise Borck has been teaching for 20 years at the middle level, the last twelve years of which have been spent in the library media center. She loves being able to share her love of reading with her students as well as her interest in technology. Denise has been selected as the 2012 Teacher of the Year for her school and the 2010 Media Specialist of the Year for the Coastal Region District of Georgia. You can follow her at http://dborck.wordpress.com or at http://wjms.bulloch.k12.ga.us/media_center_home.