Showing posts with label Mac. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mac. Show all posts

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Top 10+ Sites for a Successful 1:1 Laptop Program: Experiences from the Trenches

 Greetings from Rock Valley, Iowa, the land of cows and corn! As we wind up our school year this week, I have begun reflecting on just how much our approach to educating kids has changed since becoming 1:1 in our middle and high schools.  A year ago, I had a classroom of 6th graders.  This year, I have transitioned to the role of the district's Technology Integrationist.  I was once worried about switching jobs because I might not be busy enough (I'm a type-A, first born).  Certainly I must have had a moment of insanity? Some temporary dysphoria? In an exhilarating blur, I look up and our year is done.  I have seen teachers completely transform their teaching, provide students with extensive higher order thinking tasks, and offer challenges that weren't possible a year ago.  That being said, let's cut to the meat of this post...the Free Tech 4 Teachers!  While this in no way covers all of the wonderfully useful free sites we use on a daily basis, here are the top sites we wouldn't be without in a 1:1 environment.

1.This open-source software has been our platform on which each teacher is to put his or her classroom information, coursework, links, etc...  Having a common 'playground' for all student academics is easier on everyone.  Click here for a link to the Moodle site. Even teachers with other collaborative sites like Edmodo still link back to their district Moodle page. Kids always know where to go for their work first.  This, first and foremost, is essential to a successful 1:1 environment.

Google Drive and Google Apps have been a dream.  Through the use of the forms, spreadsheets, and docs, our teachers and students have been successfully collaborating like never before.  Through Google Apps, students and teachers are issued a school email account with which all correspondence takes place. Teachers can send out work via a link.  As that original document gets updated, so does the information contained in the link.  Teachers are able to easily assess students in the moment using the Flubaroo script (found in the script gallery). It also seamlessly links with Moodle via the URL uploads.  Teachers and administration are also using Google Drive for virtual meetings, feedback, class officer and other voting procedures.  I use it to maintain the RVTechPD Google Site for professional development, tutorials, and helpful hints for our teachers. We wouldn't be functioning the same without Drive. Three cheers for Google!

3. This little sweetheart became my new best friend this year.  As the only Technology Integrationist for our district, I have a wild schedule that can have me teaching preschoolers one class period and working with seniors the next.  This requires a beastly organization system!  YouCanBook.Me allows you to sync with your calendar (in my case, a Technology Integration Google Calendar) and share in a wide variety of ways (QR code, link, and embed to name a few).  Teachers can then book your time according to your determined "slots".  See the screenshot below... (Can you tell which day is our last full day?)
4.  Wikispaces has been a gem.  Because of its ease of use and versatility, many teachers are using it to create everything from their own personal and student portfolios to entire novel units and ways for students to demonstrate their learning.  The possibilities really are endless. 

5. I suggest this site for those who are willing and able to help those less tech-y.  This is the easiest way to capture your screen and all you're doing in video format that is easily uploaded to YouTube or downloaded to your computer to send to others.  This is the site I use for making mini-tutorials for teachers.  It sure beats reinventing the wheel when a person asks the exact same question a week later!  The free version offers up to 15 minutes of video time, there is no software to install, and it works like a dream.

6.   Probably the coolest, free journaling web tool I've run across.  Unbelievably realistic, it functions just like a notebook.  As a district, we are always looking for new ways to foster the development of writing with our students.  Penzu has been a great venue for journal writing, reflection, and curricular writing.  Pictures and files can be attached with ease, and notebook pages can be shared with teachers as needed. Penzu is used by myriad teachers in the district.

7. Formerly Wallwisher, Padlet is an incredible site used by many teachers in a wide variety of ways.  It is a powerful virtual pinboard, of sorts, that allows you the luxury of making your space into whatever it needs to be: timeline, interactive storyteller, visual book report, assignment planner, and the list goes on.  Here you can see just a few samples of things that can be done on Padlet.

8.  From comes Word Dynamo... a vocabulary treasure if ever there was one. We were reaching a stale-mate with vocabulary, being sick-to-death of the rote memorization and regurgitation that was happening with standard vocabulary books.  Students weren't learning the words, they were working to be tested over them only to watch them flitter off into oblivion the second the test was over. Word Dynamo is helping to change that.  Not only are there quality, pre-made word lists ready at any time for any subject area, there is the built-in ability for students to make their own cards and interact with them.  Now students are empowered to create their own curricular word lists in any and all subjects.  This serves as an excellent bell-ringer! Instead of the wait time until the bell rings,  students are quickly getting to work on relevant material and working daily with "real" words they are seeing and learning about in context.  Win-win.

9.   What started out as a neat way for me to bookmark sites for my own work quickly became a great way to build and store an on-going library of curricular sites by grade level.  We now have an elementary Symbaloo with a tab per grade level.  Teachers are given the username and password to the Symbaloo and are encouraged to add sites to their grade-specific tab.  Since it is embeddable and user-friendly, even for the youngest on the web, it is now possible for teachers to embed this onto their school webpage as well as utilize them on the iPads that are available for check-out within our district.  Teachers are still encouraged to do their own bookmarking of sites for their teaching or personal use on Draggo, my absolute favorite social bookmarking site.

10.  Quizlet provides a fantastic place for teachers to create their own quizzes, games and activities to suit their curriculum.  Already widely-known by many, Quizlet offers a way to practice skills in a variety of ways.  Nearly every teacher uses Quizlet in our building in some way.  It is a great means of avoiding the traditional, scary paper study guide and engages kids much like a video game would.  By linking specific Quizlet activities to the course's Moodle page, students can begin working on them as soon as the teacher posts it or allows it to be seen by students.

++++++(Just a couple of curriculum-specific sites I couldn't leave out)++++++

  Suggested by our foreign language teacher as a must-have for practicing a new language outside of the classroom, Duolingo offers excellent, individualized practice for students studying a variety of foreign languages. Its combination of verbal and written language work makes it a free find worth delving into.

AAA Math is a site recommended by our middle school math teacher as an excellent supplement to her teaching.  Compatible with the student laptops, as well as the Smartboard, it serves as a great place to find additional resources for nearly every math concept from kindergarten through eighth grade.

"I couldn't live without this in my science room," was a comment made by one our science teachers about PhET.  From the University of Colorado at Boulder comes this fantastic simulation site.  It is unbeatable in what it provides to students in an interactive way. As you can see in the screenshot below, however, it strolls down many avenues of science and math curriculum.

I am a big fan of StudyLadder.  Many of our teachers in elementary and the middle school are utilizing this excellent resource.  It is a multi-subject interactive site that allows you to differentiate for all levels of students through grade six. With the ability to import entire class lists, you can set up individualized, interactive work for your students.  What I especially appreciate about this site is the color coded leveling.  While teachers are shown which color represents which grade level, the students are not.  In addition, StudyLadder is Common Core aligned.

Whether you are 1:1 now or thinking of going that route in the near future, I offer some advice to you.  Gather up those who are not afraid to take risks, to try something new, to realize that their device will not spontaneously combust if you push the wrong button.  Together, explore the far reaches of the curriculum and how technology can and should be integrated into it.   The tech-tentacles of those people are the ones who will light the fires of your other staff members.  Provide support, provide an integrationist, and offer solid professional development opportunities. Just know that there will be hiccups your first year.  Expect them.  Call it version 1.0.  

Rachel Langenhorst is the Technology Integrationist for Rock Valley Community Schools in Rock Valley, Iowa and has been in education for 18 years, holding a BA in Elementary Education with a reading emphasis and a M.Ed in Education Technology. As a child and grandchild of former educators, she shares a life-long passion for learning and helping those around her push themselves to reach their full potential. She is a wife to Deric, mother to Alex, Mason, and Ella, and owner of an insane black lab, Howard.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Cheat Sheet for Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

CheatSheet is a free Mac app that allows you to quickly find all of the keyboard shortcuts for the applications that you use on your Mac. I'm installing it for those times when I can't remember if the shortcut I want to use requires the command key, the control key, or both. Learn more and see CheatSheet in action in the Tekzilla video below.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Use Your Webcam to Sign PDFs

If you have ever received a PDF attachment that needs to be signed, you've probably gone through the hassle of printing it, signing it, scanning it, then emailing it back to the sender. If you're a Mac user running OSX Lion there is an easier way to sign PDFs. Tekzilla shows you how in the video below.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Initial Impressions of Apple's New Education Initiatives

You might have heard that today Apple had a big event to launch their new K-12 marketing educational products initiatives. For the sake of full disclosure I will tell you now, that I have not had hands-on experience with Apple's new offerings yet. I hope to have time for that in the next few days. These are my initial impressions based on reading the promotional materials, reading some other blogs, and some short exchanges on Twitter. Remember, these are my initial impressions and I reserve the right to change my mind.

About iBooks Author
iBooks Author is Apple's new free (although it only works on Mac OS X) is the one thing that I'm somewhat excited about using. iBooks Author will allow users to create their own multimedia digital textbooks. The templates that I've seen remind me quite a bit of Apple's Pages program. For the record, I think Pages is fantastic. The limitation of iBooks Author is that you can only publish to and access the finished product through the iBooks app. Audrey Watters has written a nice hands-on with iBooks Author piece that I recommend reading.

If your school is exclusively using Apple hardware and software iBooks Author could be a good authoring tool for you. Of course, you could accomplish the same purpose of having students create multimedia reference materials by using services like Wikispaces and Simple Booklet.

About the new iTunes U
The new iTunes U certainly has the potential to be a good way to distribute course materials to students. I always celebrate when schools, whether K-12 or higher ed, publish their course materials to the public. One of the great things about the modern web is wealth of free information available to almost anyone that can access the Internet.

Once again Apple has created some highly aesthetically-pleasing products, they always do. The technology tools that get me excited are tools that students can use to remix and or create new things. The iBooks Author tool offers that to Mac users.

Other than iBooks Author, my initial impression of the new education offerings from Apple is pretty blah. The iBooks textbooks look very nice and have some interactive elements. But, I can't help but wonder why Apple choose to make the, "iBooks will make kids' backpacks lighter" as their second marketing point. It seems to me that if iBook textbooks are going to "revolutionize" education that something other than "lighter backpacks" would be Apple's second marketing point for iBooks.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

MacHeads, Welcome to Macintosh

Once a week I post a documentary video from Snag Learning. This week instead of a Snag Learning video I would like to share two videos hosted on Snag Learning's parent site Snag Films. MacHeads is a documentary about the "cult of Mac" or what makes some people so devoted to Apple's products. A preview is embedded below.

Welcome to Macintosh is an hour-long documentary about the innovations of Apple from the Apple-1 to the iPhone. A preview is embedded below.

Snaplr - Capture and Annotate Your Desktop

Vessenger, producers of a group messaging system, offers a free program for capturing and annotating images on your computer screen. The free program, called Snaplr, is available for Windows and Mac.

Snaplr reminds me a bit of Jing without the video option. With Snaplr installed you can capture all or part of your screen. Snaplr's annotation tools include text boxes, highlighting, and free-hand drawing tools. When you've finished creating your annotated screen capture you can save it as a PNG file or attach it to an email message in Outlook.

Applications for Education
Snaplr, like all screen capture tools, could be very helpful when you're introducing a new program to your students or colleagues. Offering annotated screen captures allows your students to progress at the pace that meets their needs and have your handy references along the way.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

Twitter, Google Plus, and the blog-o-sphere are buzzing tonight with the news of the passing of Steve Jobs. Whether you're an "Apple person" or a "PC person" Jobs made an impact on the way that you use computers and mobile devices. The video below is one that I included a couple of years ago in my list of five must-watch commencement addresses. I think that we can learn or be reminded of some important lessons from this commencement address that Jobs gave at Stanford in 2005.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mac For Beginners

Perhaps because I use a Mac all the time and because every 7-12 teacher in Maine uses a Mac, I sometimes forget that learning to use a Mac can be a big transition for some people. From Silvia Tolisano's daily bookmarks post I've just learned about a handy website for those folks who have just switched to Mac or are considering a switch to Mac. Mac For Beginners features concise how-to instructions for the beginning Mac user. Some of the topics you'll find covered on Mac For Beginners include using the Spotlight, adjusting system preferences, and searching for files on a Mac.

Applications for Education
Mac For Beginners could be a good resource for teachers that are responsible for teaching students of all ages how to use the basic features of a Mac.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Free PDFs - Type Every Character on a Mac Keyboard

I rarely type any words that require accents but today I needed to so I went searching for directions. In my search I came across three free PDFs from Go Squared which demonstrate how to type accents and symbols by using the correct combination of keys on your Mac's keyboard.

Applications for Education
Go Squared's keyboard shortcuts PDFs would be useful to print and post in a computer lab that uses Mac computers. Foreign language teachers may want to share these guides with their students who need help typing accent marks.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Steve Jobs Introducing the First Mac

This video of Steve Jobs introducing the first Mac 25 years ago makes a good addition to my blog post yesterday about the history of Mac and the Internet. One of the lines from the video that gave me a good laugh was "never trust a computer you can't lift." As you watch the demo you'll notice that although much has changed in the last 25 years, some user interface design elements remain.

Thanks to TechCrunch for the video link.

Applications for Education
As I mentioned above, one of the observations I made was that while the technology has changed, some user interface design elements from 25 years ago remain. If you're a computer science teacher, a good conversation that this video could start in your classroom could revolved around the question, "why do some of the user interface design elements remain similar to those of 25 years ago?"

Friday, January 23, 2009

History of Apple and the Internet

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the first Macintosh computers hitting the market. CNET has a good slideshow documenting the development of the Mac over the last 25 years. Two weeks ago I posted a video that explains the history of the Internet which you can view here or in the embedded video below.

History of the Internet from PICOL on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
If you're a computer science teacher the CNET slideshow combined with the history of the Internet video could make a nice, short history lesson for your students.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Apple Updates Products, But Doesn't Shrink Digital Divide

Disclaimer: I like most of Apple's products, in fact I use a MacBook for 90% of my work.

Yesterday, the blog-o-sphere was buzzing with the news of Apple's newest product updates. There are definitely some nice improvements to the Mac line of products. The entry level MacBook now comes in an aluminum case instead of plastic and the display has been improved. The MacBook Pro will have vastly improved graphics display as compared to the current MacBook Pro. All of the Mac laptops now have multi-touch track pads which is cool, but not a difference maker for me when choosing a laptop. Read more about the Apple product updates here, here, or here.

What Apple didn't reveal yesterday was a rumored $800 MacBook. However, Apple did announce that the retail price for the entry level MacBook has been reduced by $100 to $999. Unfortunately, the education discount for students, according to Allen Stern at Center Networks, is now only $50 instead of $100. This still represents a $150 decrease in price over the old pricing structure. As of this writing the Apple Store website has been down for over 16 hours so I have not been able to confirm Allen's report.

I like most of Apple's products and I use them a lot and I think that Apple does some very good things for the education community. However, the prices of their products put the products out of reach for many school districts and for many students. As long as PC makers continue to offer lower cost products, students and schools in less affluent areas will continue to use computers operating on Windows and Linux. Unless Apple begins to offer lower cost laptops or netbooks they're not doing anything to shrink the digital divide between the "have's" and "have not's" of school districts. Then again, maybe Apple likes the divide.

What are your thoughts about Apple and the digital divide? What needs to happen to shrink the digital divide? Do computer manufacturers have a responsibility to help shrink the divide or is it purely the responsibility of state departments of education and local school districts?

Update: The Apple store is back online and I have confirmed that Allen Stern was right, the education discount for teachers and students is now only $50 on the basic MacBook.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Just For Fun - Mac v. PC the Euro Version

Just thought I'd pass along some humor for the devoted Mac users out there.