Monday, September 7, 2015

ClassDojo's New Class Story Feature Makes It Easy to Share Highlights With Parents

Last month ClassDojo opened a new feature in beta called Class Story. According to ClassDojo's press release, more than 60,000 teachers registered to try it out. This week Class Story left beta and opened to all teachers.

Class Story is a feature within ClassDojo that allows you to post pictures, text, and links for parents and students to see within the ClassDojo apps and website. The feature is intended to help you keep parents informed about what's happening in your classroom. Class Story provides a wall onto which you can post text and image updates for parents. Only parents whose students are in your classroom can see the updates and they cannot share them outside of the ClassDojo environment. Parents can "like" your posts on the Class Story wall. As a teacher you can see which parents have read the Class Story updates and which ones have not read the updates.

Applications for Education
Class Story provides a good middle ground between being a full-fledged blog and a simple SMS update delivery system. Posting to Class Story could be a good way to share highlights of classroom activities and or reminders about upcoming events.

The Great Debate: Graphic Organizers vs Mindmaps

This is a guest post from Beth Holland (@brholland) from EdTechTeacher, an advertiser on this site.

Over the summer, I had an interesting conversation with a group of teachers in a writing workshop. When exploring ways to enhance the pre-writing process with technology, we ended up in an interesting debate: graphic organizers vs mindmaps - which best supported the pre-writing process?

Digital Graphic Organizers

The debate began when I introduced participants to the Holt Interactive Graphic Organizer web site. I would like to note that there is NOTHING interactive about this site; however, it does provide some fantastic, FREE graphic organizers in PDF form. My participants explored the possibilities of interacting with these graphic organizers through the DocHub Chrome app, which I have written about previously, as well as a host of iOS apps.

Several of the teachers in the room saw tremendous benefit in being able to type or draw on these PDFs and to work within the confined structure of the graphic organizer. With digital graphic organizers, students have the look and feel of paper combined with the benefits of digital tools such as the ability to type, draw, and even record audio. We also explored the possibility of using these PDFs with screencasting tools so that students could explain their thinking.

Mindmapping tools

On the other hand, some students find the confines of an 8.5x11 page to be constraining to their thinking. They need a larger canvas as well as a more flexible environment to map out their thoughts. After pre-writing with graphic organizers, we repeated the process with a handful of mindmapping tools. At the time, we focused primarily on Popplet and Lucid Chart (both available on the web & iOS). However, I would now add Coggle into the mix. In fact, the one embedded below provides an overview of how and why you may choose to use it.



With all of these tools, it is possible for students to expand on their ideas with an infinite amount of space. Students can include text, links, and images in their maps as well as collaborate with others. Like with the graphic organizers, these mind maps could also be combined with screencasting tools to encourage students to elaborate on their thinking. While some of my workshop participants found working with mindmaps to be liberating, others preferred the organized nature of the PDF graphic organizers.

Though our debate proved to be inconclusive, we did reach the consensus that a host of free tools exist to support students' writing.

Looking to learn more? EdTechTeacher has a FREE Back to School webinar series on their site. They will also be hosting their 4th annual EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in Boston, November 17-18. Early Bird Registration is open for that event.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

An Easy Way to Create Video Blog Entries

One of the things that I always mention in my workshops on classroom blogging is the idea that blog posts don't have to be limited to text. In fact, they don't need to have text at all if you are having students make video blog entries. Posting video blog entries can be a great way to have students share reflections on things they have learned and experience in your classroom during a week.

Blogger makes it easy to create video blog entries. The following screenshots outline the process for posting video blog entries on Blogger. (The directions assume that you already have created a blog on Blogger).

1. Select the video icon in the post editor.
Click image for full size.

2. Choose "from your webcam" then grant Blogger access to your webcam. Finally, click record.
Click image for full size. 

3. Use the recording button to stop and start the video recording.
Click image for full size.

4. Click select to insert your video into your post.
Click image for full size. 

5. Publish your post just like any other Blogger post.
Click image for full size. 


A Round-up of Recent Google Classroom & Drive Updates

Last week Google released a bunch of updates that could affect Google Apps for Education users. I covered all of them either here or on one of my other blogs. Here's a round-up of all of the updates.

1. Share to Classroom is a new Chrome extension that will let you push webpages to your student's screens. They will not need to click any links, the pages will just appear on their screens. Read more about it here.

2. Explore is a new feature of Google Sheets. Explore provides suggested graphs and charts based on the data in your spreadsheets. Click here to learn more.

3. The research function in Google Docs is now available in the Google Docs Android app. Learn more here.

4. There is a new way to access the Google Drive templates gallery. Watch a video here to see the new option.

5. Voice typing is now a native feature of Google Documents. It works quite well. See it in action in a video here.

6. The Google Drive iOS app will soon allow you to select multiple files for offline access. More information is available here.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Week in Review - Back to School Fun

A great sign in a school cafeteria.
Good morning from the FreeTech4Teachers.com world headquarters in Woodstock, Maine where the weather is perfect for a long weekend. This week I had the privilege of speaking at the first day of school for staff in Tamworth, New Hampshire. The opportunity to meet and work with teachers all over the world is the best thing that comes from writing this blog. Thank you to those teachers who joined me in Tamworth this week to learn about Google Apps and making videos. If you would like to have me visit your school, click here for more information.

One of my favorite things about visiting schools is taking pictures of fun things that I find on the walls. This week I found the sign you see to the left. I thought it was a nice cafeteria reminder for kids.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Six Tools for Creating Online Timelines - A Comparison Chart
2. Share to Classroom - Get Your Students on the Same Webpage With Ease
3. Formative - Quickly Gather Responses Sketched by Students
4. About Downloading YouTube Videos...
5. 5 Good Google Tools for Social Studies Teachers - And How to Use Them
6. My Two Ground Rules for Collaboratively Taking Notes
7. Eight Alternatives to Google Image Search

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.
Lesley University offers online education programs for teachers.
HelpTeaching offers online tests and printable resources for teachers.  
King University offers online M.Ed programs.