Reitz High School

Reitz High School
Evansville, IN

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Digital Timelines

Timelines can be used for just about any subject.  In math, a timeline could be created for the dates in which different mathematicians lived.  You could also include what they have contributed to the field of math.  In science class, an invention timeline or a timeline of the different spacecraft used in the United States space program would be interesting.  In social studies and history you could have timelines over a variety of topics.  You could even create a timeline for a family vacation.
There are a variety of webtools for the curation of a timeline to choose from.  One that I like is Dipity.  Dipity is a free digital timeline website. You can organize content by date and time. Users can create, share, embed and collaborate on interactive and visually engaging timelines that integrate video, audio, images, text, links, social media, location and timestamps.

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To sign up for dipity, you will need to go to www.dipity.com and create an account.  Fill out the first and last name blanks and then create a username.  Next, you will need to provide your email address and make a password.  Lastly you will need to type in the security number shown at the bottom of the screen.

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Once you have created an account and have signed in, you are ready to begin creating a timeline.

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You will then be asked to fill in a topic, make a description, choose a category, pick a timezone, upload a thumbnail, and decide to collaborate or share with someone.

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Then click continue to add events to your timeline.

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Below are a few more  good timeline sites.

http://www.tiki-toki.com/
http://timeglider.com/
http://www.capzles.com/
http://www.ourstory.com/

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Frustrations in Teaching


I was working with some teachers at one of my schools the other day and our topic of conversation turned to the “grade” their school received from the state.  This grade was given as a result of their standardized test scores from last spring.  They were upset and frustrated because it was lower than it was the previous year. 

We then went on to discuss a couple different students and the scores they earned on the written response section.  I want to make a point to say that these scores contributed and were a big factor for the grade the school received.  One student, who is a 4.0, has always done an excellent job with writing, got a score of 0 out of 2 on one of the questions.  Another student that struggles with writing, has a low GPA, and tends to have sentence fragments got a score of 2 out of 2 on the same question. 

The teachers were livid and wondered how in the world this happens?  The problem lies with the grading of these tests.  Multiple people grade these questions.  There is a rubric that is supposed to be followed, but even with a rubric, different people have their own pet peeves and knit pick about different things.  My point being, unless the same person grades every single written response test, then there isn’t any way that they are being graded the same way.  I have even been in a room with several teachers that were being trained.   They practiced grading written response questions with a rubric.  Because the grading of the question is so objective, the teachers hardly ever all agreed on what the final score should be for the essay.

Each school, as a whole, also has to show growth each year regardless of the group of students that comes through.  For example, if every student at the school gets a 95% on the test, then the next year when they have new sixth graders and the eighth graders from last year are gone to the high school, they still have to do better than everyone getting a 95% the previous year.  If they stay the same, which everyone would still doing awesome, the data shows that the school didn’t show growth academically.  Lets say this year that all of the students got a 94%, which is still off the charts good, it shows they went down and showed negative growth.  So even though your school is doing outstanding, the stats show that you went down and that takes your school’s grade down as well.

To me, this is a system setup for failure.  It is almost like, you want to do well, but if you don’t do better the following year, then you get basically get penalized for doing so well the previous year.  If a school miraculously had every student get a perfect score, then there would be nowhere to go but stay the same or go down.  That school’s grade would go down because of that.

You can imagine the pressure that a principal has on them for their school to do well.  Their job is on the line for the school to show growth each year.  That pressure gets trickled down to the teachers.  Eventually, the teachers are teaching to the test and not deviating from that.  Basically the students from K-8 grade are completely focused on the standardized test.  This leaves no room for creativity or innovation for students in your classroom.  These are sad times in education.  What is it going to take for the folks that have put standardized testing in place to understand how it is ruining education?  Those of us that do understand need to speak up and speak out.  It is time for an education shift.  I have said this before; humans are not all alike.  Human beings are not standard.  If we were, then the world would be a pretty boring place.  We are no longer training students to work on assembly lines like we did 60 years ago.

I feel like I could go on and on with this topic.  I am going to stop for  now, but this post is “To be continued…”

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cloud Storage and File Sharing

If you work with the same files in multiple places it can be a big hassle.  Now, there are several online file storage and syncing services that will make your files available from just about anywhere.  Cloud storage is gaining popularity and is in high demand.  It seems that everyone wants access to their files from every device they own, at any given time, and from every place they go.  We want to share our files with others, but some files are just too big to send via email and not all devices accept a flash drive.  Now what?  In today’s challenge we are going to look at some great methods to store and share those large files so that you have easy access to them wherever  and whenever you have Internet access.

Dropbox

My personal favorite and the one that is most widely used is Dropbox.  Their motto is “Your Stuff, Anywhere.”  It is a force to be reckoned with in the online file storage world.  You start off with 2GB of free storage just for signing up and can get bonuses for referring friends to sign up.  Dropbox will even deliver your files to you on your Mac, Windows, Linux system, BlackBerry, iOS, or Android device.  This is a great way to store and share those photo files that you want your friends and family to see.  It works just like a folder or drive that you have currently on your computer.
Here is how you do it.  Go to www.dropbox.com and sign up.  You will need a valid email address and create a password.






Once you have created your account you will receive an email that includes a button to install dropbox on your Mac or PC.


Once installed you can manage your files via your computer or the web.  The web version will appear like this.

 From here you can upload files, create new folders, create shared folders, and delete files and folders.  To use on portable devices you will need to download the free app.  It is very user friendly and I highly recommend it.

Box.net

Box.net starts you off with 5GB for free. You can install the Box Sync app to sync your files with the web, and install the mobile apps to get access to your files on your iOS, Android, and Blackberry Devices.  Or you can upload your files to your Box.net account and access them via the Internet.  You can also combine Box’s content management and administrative capabilities with Google Docs’ real-time collaboration tools.  You can create Google Docs and Spreadsheets in Box. You can share with Box so others can view and edit.  You can also edit with Google’s real-time technology in Box

SkyDrive

SkyDrive is integrated with Windows, specifically Windows 8 for desktops and tablets.  It will also work with Mac.  If you use Office 2013, then using SkyDrive as cloud storage for all of your files is a great choice. SkyDrive also has mobile apps for Windows Phone, iOS, and Android, so you can access files on the go, when you have an internet connection. When you sign up you get 7GB of storage and 10 GB if you are a student. Skydrive has been praised for its Microsoft integration, especially with Office, Windows, and its third party app support.

Google Drive

If you are a big user of Google Apps, you probably already know about Google Drive.  They give you a 15GB limit.  It makes sense to use Google Drive for file storage if you love Google Doc/Apps.  It’s available for OS X, Windows, iOS, and Android.

My Big Campus

My Big Campus now has a drive, formerly “your stuff”.  It has an unlimited GB which is very appealing.  They have now set it up where you can add folders, as well as, the labels.  To share with others, you can simply create a bundle and add collaborators.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Twitter and Connecting with your PLN


Social media is now more popular than ever.  I have led a few workshops on how to build a PLN with the use of social media.  These sessions have also had low attendance.  It could be that I am a terrible presenter and nobody wants to come to my sessions.  However, that may not be the case because my Weebly, Webtools, and Google Docs sessions are busting at the seams.  My guess is that most people simply do not understand what a PLN is and what it can do for them. 



If you are a newbie, then I will go ahead and let you know that PLN stands for personal learning network. You could have a PLN for any topic that you want to learn more about, so it is possible to have more than one.  For example, if I am an educator that teaches history, has a hobby where I collect WWII memorabilia, and my favorite movies are the Star Wars series, then I could actually build a PLN in each area.  I could have one for my job, one for my hobby, and one to connect with other Star Wars fanatics.  How is this possible? 

One of the easiest ways to connect with people around the world that have similar interests is Twitter.  I know what you might be thinking, I don’t need one more thing to do or keep up with.  Believe me, I felt that same way when a friend told me about this idea.  I thought great, another social network where people are going to tell me what they had for dinner and when they took their dog for a walk.  Reluctantly, I signed up for a Twitter account.  I didn’t seek out friends or people that I normally connect with on Facebook.  Instead, I followed people that were keynote speakers at recent conferences.  I followed a few eLearning leaders from around the state.


As I would read articles posted by the people I followed, I would begin the author of the article itself.  Before I knew it, people were following me.  I began exploring hash tags and would read posts from educators within the hash tag.  For example, #edchat or #edtech.  A hashtag is the pound sign followed by a topic.  While watching many of your favorite television shows you may have noticed a hashtag followed by the name of the show in the corner of the screen.  You can now get on Twitter and type in that hashtag and read people’s comments as the show is broadcasting.

There are several places on the web to find good hashtag lists.  I have one on my website for education along with a list of people to follow by subject area.  Also on my website, you can check out a PLN Livebinder created by a colleague of mine.  Here is the link to that page: http://elearningtolife.weebly.com/developing-your-pln.html


The Indiana Department of Education’s eLearning division has #INeLearn.   Each Thursday night from 7:00 to 8:00 PM Central Time there is a Twitter chat that anyone can take part in.  The chats cover a wide range of topics for all educators.

Well, I said all that to say all this.  At the moment I am now following 418 people, I have 305 followers, and I have tweeted 1,970 times.  If I can do, then anyone of you could too.  Each day as I open my browser and go to Twitter, I get a plethora of great eLearning articles to read, new webtools to explore, great ideas to use, and advice to follow.  If I have a question about something I can tweet it out and usually someone in my PLN will respond with an answer.  It is an awesome support group that I wish I had access to when I started teaching 21 years ago.