Thursday, May 10, 2012

Skype in Education

I have for a long time been promoting the use of Skype in the classroom and finally I stumbled on the perfect project. On the Skype in education website I found a Yellowstone park ranger that was looking to Skype with classrooms all over the world and share the wonders of the magnificant national park. One of our brave 2nd grade teachers Mrs. Hartley volunteered to try it out! Her class was currently studying the State of Maine, so we decided to do a compare and contrast between Yellowstone and Maine. First Mrs. Hartley and I did a test Skype so that the students got used to the medium, Mrs. Hartley also prepared her class, she had all her students write down questions for the ranger. Finally the day approached for the Skype conversation! It was a success, ranger Beth Tyler was the natural teacher, it was like having her right there in the classroom, she showed the students artifacts and photos and kept them engaged the whole time, Check it out in action by clicking the video below!

The funny unexpected twist to our whole experience came after the principal posted the video link on our schools facebook page, all of a sudden he got a message from Skype asking if they could use our video on their newly revamped Skype in Education home page!! We obtained all the necessary permissions and now we are the "see it in action" video clip on their homepage!!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Taming your gmail inbox

If you are like me, have a crazy inbox then here are some helpful tips from Google to tame your e-mail inbox!!

ARCHIVE your e-mail

Does your Inbox have more that 100 messages? 500 messages? Maybe even thousands? If so, you’ve got a case of Inbox Bloat! There’s really no reason to keep all that email in your Inbox. It’s much easier to archive your old messages. Why? Archiving helps you:

  • Better manage your Inbox by keeping it neat, tidy, and uncluttered.
  • Reduce your stress level. Many people tend to feel overwhelmed when their Inbox is full of old messages. By reducing your Inbox to only new messages, or messages you need to deal with soon, your workload doesn’t seem so insurmountable.
  • Have a sense of accomplishment. Think about it - if your Inbox contained only a few messages, wouldn’t you feel like you accomplished something?
  • You can still quickly see all your e-mail by clicking the label "all email"
Here is a link to and easy tutorial on how to archive your e-mail

Have you tried the priority inbox feature?? You might find your self much more productive using the priority inbox feature. Try it out by using these instructions:

Do you need to quickly find that e-mail from your grade level team member? Or where is that important e-mail from David? Learn how to organize your e-mail by applying filters and labels with this easy quick to do tutorial!

DRAG and DROP labels and messages
Learn how to quickly utilize your labels by dragging them to messages or dragging the messages to your labels by using  this quick tutorial:

This is were I found all these tips and there are more!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Blogging? What tools to use?

If you have been thinking of using a blog for your self as a teacher to share resources or to use with your students. Keep on reading here are some helpful tips and tricks that I have compiled for you!

I was trying out different blogging tool to see what would be the easiest for teachers to use especially if you have never blogged before. I set up my own account to see how easy it would be to navigate, customize and figure out how to make posts so that I could teach others how to do it. I don't mind winging it when I am helping people but it is nice to know that I have seen the interface before.
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Anyway, if you are brand new to blogging and are not planning on having your whole class blog with you, then I think might be the vehicle for you. It is run by google so it integrates seamlessly with googles other tools. Maybe I am impartial because I have been using many of the google tools including Google Docs and Gogle Apps for education. I have learned the interface and how works so it is now second nature to me.

I continued my blogging journey and noticed that when I read blogs and even website many of them used wordpress. I really liked how completely different and how very professional many of these blogs looked like so I set up a wordpress account as well. When I googled wordpress I encountered 2 websites. and So what was the difference between the two? Easy... is a quick set up, hosted by wordpress on their server and fairly easy to set up, it is web-based, so therefor you can add posts to it as long as you have access to the internet. was a little more complex, you need to download the wordpress blogging application, install it on your computer, find a webhost for your blog (costs money) then start blogging. If you are friendly with the IT people at your school they might allow you to host your blog on the school server.
I then turned my eyes to blogging tools used by teachers with their students and the first one I encountered was Edublogs was pretty easy to set up, the interface looked exactly like wordpress so I suspect they are partners. I liked the fact that you as a teacher can upgrade your account and for $3/month  get 50 student accounts to your classblog. $3 per month is not a lot of money but it is still money for a teacher to shell out. Maybe they can get it paid for by the school but with budget cuts and so forth I am not so sure about that.I also looked at what controls the teacher had in form of monitoring comments and monitoring who can access the blogs. Different schools have different policies on displaying students work so I wanted to make sure you could make it really secure. Edublogs fulfilled my requirements in that arena.

Another blogging tool I looked at was a blogging tool provided by David Warlick and the Landslide project. I looked at that one mainly because my favorite Kindergarten Teacher Maria Knee from Derfield, NH uses it to blog with her kids. I know it is secure and allows for many controls. This is where I got a little frustrated, I tried to sign up for an account but it keept asking me for a school pass code and it did not give any  further instructions. I have now e-mailed David Warlick to see what my next step should be.

The final classroom blogging tool I looked at was This application is very bare bones, but super easy to use. So for those of you that just wants to have a forum for your students to blog but don't care about it being flashy and fancy, this is the tool for you! Here is a link to my friend Mr. Gagnon, he uses it with his 3rd grade class!
Please feel free to comment to this post and add suggestions for other blogging tools I should explore. I did look into the blog feature offered by Apple as part of the iWeb application. However, many features like comments etc is only available if you host it on Apple's own mobile me server.

Voice Thread

VoiceThread is a neat web 2.0 tool that allows you to post images, videos and have people around the world comment on them like an online discussion.
It is a great tool to use in the classroom, I know a language arts teacher that had her Spanish Students describe a picture, they then sent the link to a school in Costa Rica and the students there got to critique the American Spanish Students pronunciation.
Right now I am trying to come up with some cool projects we could do in the elementary school. I was thinking that Flat Stanley would be a great one, first picture is of Flat Stanley in his home classroom with all the students wishing him a safe journey. When they mail Flat Stanley to the world they will also send the Voice Thread link and the people that receives Flat Stanley will take a picture of him, add a comment that the students can listen to, they can then post some additional questions to the recipient of Flat Stanley, Hmm some thoughts.
Anyway here is my first attempt on the fly. I was thinking that elementary kids could post pictures of their pets or favorite animal and then talk about why they like it. They can then go on and comment on other peoples pictures. Please help me out, click on my Voice Thread, leave me a comment or even better upload your own animal photo and comment!

Story Bird

I got a tip from a friend to check out storybird!
A great online collaborative website where you can create books and publish them online! You can use other people's art work (all supplied to you by the website) or upload your own. It is an amazing starting point for young writers that are struggling to put words on the paper. It was so quick and easy to make a book, I made and Alien book with the help of my son Max in less than 2 minutes. Please be the first one to read it and give us some feedback!
Here it is!
Screen shot 2011-02-08 at 7.56.18 PM
You just click on a picture, drag and drop it on the page, quickly add more pictures, add some text, hit publish, and Voila! It can't be easier than this!
Screen shot 2011-02-08 at 7.56.24 PM

Macbook Tutorial

For all you Mac users that wonders what all the functions and programs does on your Mac, well Apple has a great tutorial for basic uses. Just check it out!

Friday, May 4, 2012

ePub - or how to create your own iBook

I recently went to an Apple workshop. The Apple trainers bombard you with information, their fingers flies over the keyboards and they make everything look sooooo amazingly easy including making an ePub (an electronic book to be read on your iPad or any other mobile device)! They show you how easy it is to create a cool interactive lab instruction (including video) for your students to download on to their mobile devices!

Wow! me and my co-worker where pumped, we need to do this with her fist graders! How cool turn their "all about.." into an ibook made by the students with their own video narration. Lets do it! I went to her classroom picked a couple of kids books, decided it was easier to photograph their pages as opposed to scanning them. Problem number 1... the pages looked all grey!, the camera read all the white on the page and made it grey. I went back to her classroom change the settings on my camera to underexpose all the pictures by EV settings +1/3 t0 +2 (you need to experiment with this). No I don't use a fancy camera, just a basic cannon digital point and shoot, if you read the manual you can fine tune some of your controls!

The pictures came out a little bit better. I opened up Pages, I inserted all the pictures into Pages, changed the settings as Apple suggested and started to export as an ePub. I transferred the ePub to my iPad.... opened up iBook and voila there it was! A beautiful book about Dinosaurs.. but wait, what happened to the last 3 pages? Gone!! I did the process over and over, I shut down all the programs, rebooted the computer, exported, reexported, spend several hours but could never get the last 3 pages to appear! I am stumped! So.. dear readers of this blog, does anyone have any suggestions to me for why this is happening? One thing I still need to explore is the size limitations of the ePub... maybe the picture files are to big and all together the exceed the size limitations?

Anyway I have not given up on it! I will keep exploring and coming up with new ways of using ePub in the elementary schools!

Here is a link to Apples ePub template!