Manage, Share, and Publish Your Links

icyte

All of us save bookmarks on our computers to sites we like and intend to revisit and share–at some point–with our students and colleagues.  The problem we often run into is that our bookmarks are usually stored on just one computer.  And, if we want to share those links with others, we need to edit some HTML or–at least–copy/paste them into a Haiku page.  In either case, it’s a time-consuming process.  Then, after some time passes, the web page can be taken down or changed, and the whole point of visiting the page is gone.

Last year I discovered iCyte.  In one fell sweep, my problems were solved!  Once I installed it as a browser add-on, I was able to save my links, access them from any computer, share them with friends and students, and embed selected sub-sets (“Projects” in iCyte lingo) on my Haiku pages.  Rarely has one small application changed my work habits so dramatically.

Here is a link to a project of mine for my U.S. History course.

Currently, I have 132 projects and over 3,000 links!  I can find a specific link in a second using the search feature.  I can access any web page–exactly as it was when I added the link–because iCyte actually archives that very web page when I made the iCyte link.  I have created and shared many separate projects for links on special topics for my students and embedded them on my Haiku pages.  These project lists are always editable, too–so I can go back and add or delete links in the future as information changes. iCyte projects are private by default, but you can make them either public (viewable by all other iCyte users) or private as you wish.

Creating a new iCyte (their name for a saved link) is simple and fast.  I click an icon in my browser (next to the URL window), and a drop-down window appears.  I can “tag” the link, place it in a new or existing project, all in a few seconds.  That’s how I’ve wound up with 3,000 links!  It’s so easy I do it now without thinking.  Now, at least one aspect of my life is well-organized.
dropdown

Another problem that iCyte handles well is classifying and annotating why  I saved a link. I’m sure you’ve experienced the same thing–I re-visit a link I saved some time ago and, for the life of me, I can’t remember why I saved it in the first place!  With iCyte, I can make a quick annotation for my future self–or anyone I share my links with–about what I like on that page.  Additionally, I can set up a system of “tags” to create a kind of quick index of my links.  If I search for my tag, all the links with that tag will show up, even if I saved them on different projects. I can even highlight particular passages on the page for future reference, and iCyte will save those along with the page.

iCyte is available for the following browsers: Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and IE. With the exception of IE, the add-ons work on either Macs or Windows machines.

Finally, a note of full disclosure.  I emailed the creators of iCyte, after using it for awhile, to make a few suggestions about features they might consider adding.  iCyte responded and was interested in how I was using it as a teacher.  One thing led to another, and I have become an educational consultant for them.  They are enthusiastic supporters of education.  If you try iCyte, let me know how it goes.  You can contribute to making it better.

iCyte Help Videos

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Old Fashioned Flash Cards on a New Fangled iPhone or iPod Touch

iFlipr
We’ve all used flash cards as a tried and true method of learning new vocabulary in a new language or to master new terminology in a science or history course.

The trouble with flash cards is that they are bulky, unwieldy, and unsharable.  Until now.

Using iFlipr on an iPod Touch or iPhone, it is a simple matter to quickly write, upload, and share stacks of flash cards with the whole world.  iFlipr runs just $4.99 at the Apple Ap Store.

Here is a video demonstrating iFlipr.

The 3.5″ iPhone screen is tailor made for flash cards.  iFlipr even allows you to include a drawing or a photo with your cards–so that you can just eliminate the use of English for learning another language or use diagrams to learn biological systems, etc.
screen shot 1
screen shot 2

iFlipr also uses the Leiter system of reinforcement–asking you to work on cards you get wrong more often than the ones you get correct.

There are three ways to create stacks of cards:

  1. SLOW: writing them on your iPod Touch
  2. FAST: writing them on the form at the iFlipr.com site
  3. FASTEST: writing them in an Excel spreadsheet, saving them as a “csv” file (commas separated values), opening the file with a text editor(WordPad or Text), copying them, and then pasting them in a window on the iFlipr site.
  4. I have offered extra credit to my AP US History students if they create stacks for different chapters.  I ask them to save the stacks using a similar scheme like “TAP Chap 01″ for example, so that other students can easily search for them.

    In fact, I advocate that all students should have an iPod Touch for academic purposes alone. I recently purchased a refurbished 8GB 3rd Gen iPod Touch for $150 at The Apple Store. This seems a modest investment in such a useful and potentially powerful education/entertainment device. Check out these links for more information:
    Apple in Education
    Why an iPod Touch in Education?
    iPod Touch in Education
    iPod Touch in Education at Classroom 2.0
    50 Educational Apps for the iPod Touch
    mLearnopedia
    iPhone/iPod Touch Application List/Education

    I’d like to see various subject matter teachers list apps here that are useful for their disciplines–and to list them on their Haiku pages so students can download them.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How to Use Web 2.0 Tools to Record Audio Comments on Student Papers

Students sometimes prefer the personal touch of actually hearing their teacher’s voice instead of seeing his red (or, in my case, green)  pen marks all over their papers.  In the same amount of time, it’s often possible to provide far more feedback via an audio comment than it is with a written comment.  This is especially true for content-type feedback.  If you have a complicated idea that you wish to share, it’s often quicker and easier to do it orally than in writing.  Of course, if you are correcting more mechanical errors like spelling, punctuation, grammar, vocabulary, and syntax, then a written correction is clearer and faster. [Sample MP3 file download]

Often, a combination of written and audio commentary works best.  First, go through the paper and make your written mechanical corrections.  Then, where you want to make an extended audio comment, mark the paper with a circled number “1″.  This can be your reference point when making your audio comment later.  That way, when the student receives her paper, she will know to look at that passage when she listens to your comment.  By numbering passages ahead of time, you create a kind of script to follow once you start recording.  I often pause a few seconds between passages just to collect my thoughts, re-read the passage again, and think of what I want to say before I resume recording.  This short rehearsal time makes a big difference in the concision of my comments and reduces the hemming and hawing to a minimum.

One of the persistent obstacles in providing audio feedback for students has been the file size issue.  Even using mp3-style compression, it usually works out to 1 minute of recording = 1 MB of file space.  A good length for audio feedback on papers is around 3-5 minutes.  More than that and you’ll discover students stop listening–unless they are extremely interested and motivated.  But even 3-5 MB file sizes are very difficult to email directly to students via MS Outlook.  They take a long time to upload and download.  Here are a few suggestions to streamline the process of recording your audio feedback and sharing it with students.

GoogleTalk You can use Google Talk to leave an MP3 voicemail for students.  This is extremely easy and convenient.  However, there are a few drawbacks: 1)  your message will be sent whether you want to or not as soon as you stop recording; 2) You cannot edit your comments; 3) you cannot save your comments.  GoogleTalk is great for providing quick audio feedback for simple things, but I am reluctant to depend on it for anything more complex.

RECORDING:

audacity Audacity is a great, free recording app available on all Laurel computers.  You can easily download it to your computer.  I won’t go into all the details of using Audacity.  There are many useful tutorials available on the web.  The great thing about Audacity is that you can easily pause while recording if you are interrupted, and you can make quick edits to remove extraneous introductory, concluding, or in-stream noises, coughs, etc.  You also need to download an extension for Audacity to compress your recordings into the MP3 audio file format.  Instructions are on the website.

SHARING AUDIO FILES:

YouSendItInstead of emailing the entire audio file as an attachment, it makes much more sense to upload your MP3 file to a file sharing service on the web, and send the student an email with a link to that file.  This is very simple and free.  Many media sharing services are available.  I recommend YouSendIt.  They will prompt you with an email message form.  Just type in the student’s email address, include a title, and a short message about opening the file.  Many students will have a browser with a preference already selected for playing MP3 files–Windows Media Player and iTunes are the most common.

YouSendIt will allow downloading of the MP3 file for ten days after the message is sent.  That enables them to reuse storage space for new files.  But you have a copy of your recording on your hard drive, so if a student forgets to download her file, you can easily send it again.  Once she downloads it, of course, she has a copy on her hard drive to listen to whenever she wishes.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

I Was A Twitter Skeptic…And Then I Met Brian Carpenter

Until shortly before Spring Break in March, I was a complete and utter skeptic when it came to the merits of Twitter. I was totally convinced that the 140-character limit for messages precluded its use for anything other than the latest Hollywood starlet’s vacuous musings or really useless postings about what people had last eaten for lunch.

But after talking with Brian after a committee meeting in which Twitter came up, I came to see that Twitter had so much more to offer. Brian shared that it gave him a great and speedy way to see what other teachers were doing to improve or innovate their own teaching ideas, with the potential to follow up directly though links, email, or Twitter itself. I figured it was worth my time to see what it had to offer in areas I was interested in as well, especially the constantly changing field of college admissions.

Over Spring Break, I set up a Twitter account. I basically then began “following” colleges and college admissions experts who interested me. I “follow” a range of colleges to see what is going on at their schools, what is trending in their admissions offices, and what they have to offer as a potential destination for our students. As you can imagine, I am adding to this list all the time as I think of other schools or come across them through mentions elsewhere in Twitter. A quick look right now at the colleges I follow includes Ohio State, Harvard, UVA Admissions, Mizzou, Mount Holyoke, Loyola Chicago, Tufts, Agnes Scott, Yale, and a host of others.

I also follow admissions experts, ranging from NACAC (National Association of College Admissions Counselors) to “The College Guide” and “App Boot Camp”. These tweeters share the most amazing range of information, from links to very serious articles on admissions numbers and scholarships to a recent posting on how one college turned a campus building into R2D2!

You may ask (and I sure did before I began doing this), “How could you get any good information in 140-characters?” The answer is…I don’t! What I do get is wonderful links or suggestions that send me off to college websites, news sites, online resources, and all kinds of other places. I don’t have to be able to read the information in 140-characters…and yet that has turned out to be plenty of room in which to provide the basic idea that leads me on to further reading/research/etc. Because of linking, I literally can just click just one time on Twitter to reach the longer article, film, picture, or other form of media which has the whole story and is located elsewhere.

A quick look at Twitter usually will allow me to see any big college news that comes up each day, plus an enormous range of events and activities going on at the colleges. In addition, most days I find links to articles or blog postings about the college process, testing, financial aid, or preparing for college life. It is literally a gold mine in terms of information…and Twitter allows me a quick look at it without the hours I would have spent research to find this via individual sites.

How will I use this in the future? Besides my own knowledge, I’d like to get to the point where I could share this with students and parents, using it as a way to point out interesting events at colleges or general college information on a host of levels. Many of my “tweets” are actually “retweets” in which I am copying and acknowledging where I have obtained the information. Instead of printing out great articles, I could post the links to my Twitter; instead of constantly mentioning why a college is wonderful, I could link to show the wonderful programs and opportunities taking place on that campus. I think it would be another great way to share this kind of information with both students and parents.

And a note…I don’t identify that I am the college counselor at a girl’s school on my Twitter account and I don’t post negative college information. I just feel that is the way I should do it.

Highlight of Twitter so far for me? The day I tweeted congratulations to Ohio State on its beautiful new student center…and Ohio State started “following” me on Twitter!

So…you might be amazed at what Twitter has to offer – I certainly was! If you want to check out my Twitter postings, you can follow me at “whichcollegejen”.

Thanks, Brian!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Computer Review Games

During the last week of classes, one of my colleagues in the History Department mentioned that she had found a PowerPoint based review game on the web.  She used it with her class to review for their final exam.  When she told me that this was her first experience of using one of these games, I immediately thought it would be a great topic for me to share some links on for our new teacher blog.

There are so many really great review games online.  I could create a very long list, but instead I will give you just a few of my favorites.  All of these are PowerPoint based template games.  All you have to do is type in your questions and answers.  They are really very simple to figure out.  Some of the files will download into a zipped folder that contains sound files.  These enhance the experience for your students because there are recorded sounds from your favorite TV quiz game shows.

This site is from Hardin County, Kentucky and it includes many teacher created Jeopardy games mostly for the younger grades. You will find a blank PPT template at the bottom of the page.

Here is another Jeopardy template that you might want to use. They are all similar, some just have different graphics that you might like better than others.  This site also has a Double Jeopardy game.

For Hollywood Squares and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, go to this site.

Along with many teacher-created games, this site provides a blank PPT for a Wheel of Fortune game.

Here are some more PowerPoint games.  Check this site out and find one that might work for you in your classroom.

If I have not provided you with templates that you like, go ahead and search the web.  One quick way to narrow your Google search is to do an advanced search and to select file type: PPT.  This will only give you PowerPoint files.

If you have a favorite PowerPoint review game that I didn’t mention, why not respond to this post and provide a link.  There are so many fun games out there that can make reviewing fun and memorable.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

When Raising a Hand Just Won’t Do

It has always bothered me that for every question I ask during class, I’m only able to get a sense of how well one or two students respond. Eighteen hands go up, but I can only pick one to call on. Okay, maybe only five hands go up, but I still want to know what all of my students are thinking about the topic we are discussing. Having that knowledge would let me be better informed as to the progress of the class and I could quickly decide whether the content needs further explanation or if we can push off in new directions. However, surveying every student for an answer to every question is impractical and time-consuming using traditional hand-raising methods. That’s why I introduced “clickers” to my honors physics class during the second semester.

Clickers are an electronic classroom response system that enables students to respond to questions using a small handheld device that looks like a television remote control. The device sends the student response to a computer run by the teacher. The software on that computer compiles the responses allowing the teacher to quickly assess the class’s knowledge. These classroom response systems are typically used in large college lecture environments, but they have a lot of utility for our classrooms as well. Many others have extolled the benefits of clickers in the classroom, and rather than repeat them here, I’ll suggest you check out any of the following links:

Learning Technologies – Clickers (@OSU)
Classroom Clickers and the Cost of Technology by Dr. Stephanie Chasteen
Eric Mazur’s (author of Peer Instruction: A User’s Manual) research group
Scholarly Articles on Clickers and Peer Instruction

My goal with this post is to show you how you can implement clickers in your classroom using readily available tools.

Software

For software that collects and catalogs responses from multiple users, I turned to www.polleverywhere.com. This company provides free use of their product to K-12 teachers. Once you’ve created an account, you can immediately log in and begin creating new polls, including multiple choice and text based questions. Each poll has a variety of options that you specify, such as allowing students to respond more than once to the same poll. Additionally, you can choose to allow students to respond via the web, through a smart phone, or even by texting the answer from their cellphone. Once you’ve created the poll, you can embed it into your Haiku page or a Power Point presentation. Here’s an example poll from the energy unit in my honors physics class. It’s still live, so feel free to vote using any of the methods listed on the chart. The response time of the chart is only a few seconds at most.

Sample Poll

As you can see from the sample poll above there are three options for students to send a response:

Visit poll4.com and enter the code corresponding to the correct answer.
Using a cellphone, text the correct code to the number provided.1
Using Twitter, tweet the code to @poll

Hardware

From the list above, you can see that your students will need either a computer, web-enabled smart phone, or a standard cellphone. While we are exploring the possibility of a 1-to-1 laptop environment, it isn’t here yet, so relying on access to a computer every class can be problematic. Instead, there are two options.

First, allow students to use their own cellphones. The technology is ubiquitous and the students are very familiar with its operation. Even if every girl doesn’t possess a cellphone, students can share the device if you turn on the option to allow respondents to answer more than once.2 Normal texting charges do apply, so I only suggest that girls with unlimited texting on their phones use this method. I’m an advocate of modeling responsible use of cellphone technology for our students, so I like having them use their phones. However, I recognize that not everyone is comfortable with this method.

Option two is to use the set of iPod Touches that the school owns. We have 18 iPod Touches in the Crile library that the IR department can help you set up and prepare for use in your class. All of them access the wireless network allowing your students to use the poll4.com option of responding through the built-in web browser. They are easy to use and the students in my class took to using them immediately. You can arrange to check out all 18, or a smaller set to share among your students.

Making It Work

Once, you have your question prepped on polleverywhere.com and the hardware waiting, you’re ready. The first time I did a clicker question, I set aside 15-20 minutes of class time. This allowed me to explain the process to the girls as well as give them time to get used to how the poll worked. After that first explanation, I had a question prepared and projected on the board at the beginning of each class. As the girls entered, they quickly retrieved an iPod Touch or took out their cell phones and sent their answer. Within minutes, they were discussing the problem as a class, defending and reevaluating their answers with no prompting from me. I find a lot of value in this type of interaction and clickers have been one way that I’ve been able to encourage it. If you find yourself wanting that same immediate feedback, give this system a try and let me know how it works for you.

Brian C.


1 – Be aware that texting incurs all normal texting charges.
2 - Polleverywhere.com marks users by IP address or phone number to keep people voting more than once.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 3 Comments

Public Writing

It’s said that one of the most common phobias is the fear of public speaking. Me, I don’t really have a problem with that. I do get a little nervous when I’m actually “on”, I suppose, but no sweaty palms, no dry mouth, no stage fright—all in all, it doesn’t bother me much. Public writing, though? That’s a completely different story. I don’t mean published writing (I don’t think, though I’ve never been published either), which has the benefit of an editor and I guess an agent and maybe other careful readers who scrutinize a manuscript to make sure a person won’t make a complete fool of herself. No, I mean really public writing as it has sprung up in the last decade or so, transformed by the game-changer that is the internet.

For example, it took me about 7 months of belonging to Facebook before I actually wrote my first status update; this after writing and deleting several others, worried that I would sound too stupid/too clever/too sincere/too boring. It’s not as constraining as Twitter with its 140 characters, but there are still space parameters that seem to demand a certain witty restraint, the ability to communicate much in very few words. The quip as personal manifesto. Pithiness as art.

So one might think that I would relish the opportunity for more expansive territory. I wouldn’t blame one. Logically, I would think so too. I do think so. And then I write something, and I read it over again, and I think something along the lines of “Arrghhahhhblaaahhh” and retreat. Yet I am a teacher, an English teacher no less, for whom words are a refuge and a mainstay, not to mention a job.

I don’t quite know why blogging should strike such terror into my heart. If I can stand up at a podium, face down hundreds of staring eyes, and throw my words into the breach, why not put those same ideas out into the faceless void of cyberspace? After all, things like cyberbullying are flourishing in part, many speculate, because the anonymity of online communities makes us feel safer. So why do I feel more exposed, especially when writing is my milieu?

I guess it’s my very comfort with the parameters of more traditional forms of writing that makes me so jumpy around blogs. Is blogging a kind of formal writing? Yes, in that there are blogs maintained and read by professional communities, with a fixed purpose and the desire to create informed conversation. But it’s informal writing too. Anyone can read or write a blog, and there is no prescribed system of fact-checking or proofreading to ensure the integrity of the discourse. Of course, what with James Frey’s fictionalized-memoir-scandal and the plagiarism of established writers like Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin, maybe the whole myth that published writing has integrity by nature should be completely shattered anyway. After all, it’s the writer, not the platform, who has control of the content.

Ultimately, I’m going to give this a try because however I may feel about it, online communities are real and the water my students swim in. To them, status updates are as natural as breathing and my discomfort with the idea of blogging marks me as hopelessly out of touch. Plus, beneath my fear is fascination. New technology, new rules, new opportunities for people to become interested in the written word. These seem like as good reasons as any for taking the plunge.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment