Archive for the ‘Tech Tools’ Category

SolutionsOkay folks, here are my solutions in a very troubling situation.  I am an instructional technology specialist and current classroom teacher that unfortunately has very little access to technology.  The spring semester this year was so frustrating, I began to bring my own devices to supplement the needs of my students in accessing the bare bones tools I provide online.  My solution this fall is to continue to use personal devices, resurrect old devices, and I’m going to try some discount devices that hopefully won’t cause my own children to starve from the money I am choosing to take from my personal budget that takes care of their welfare (I know I am taking a risk that these devices die as based on past experience).

What I have been using are two old laptops (HPs) that were assigned to myself and my classroom that I have installed Ubuntu on for a more reliable operating system.  I took my old Asus netbook and installed Ubuntu on it replacing Windows XP.  I have an old HP desktop that runs Windows 7, and I have resurrected 3 iBook G3s, 1 PowerBook Titanium, and a PowerBook Lombard.  I bring 4 of my kid’s DOPO devices (I had 5 but one crashed and burned – sorry Nicholas), and I have just ordered 3 more DOPO devices for a total of $119.  I also have an old iPad and old Kindle added to the mix; plus, I do have my teacher laptop that can be utilized as needed.  With this I have amassed 15 devices that will “work” in most instances.  I fortunately do have access to a BYOD network that students can utilize with various devices and some can use their phones if they choose.

The frustrating part of all of this is that I just don’t think this is how life should be for an educator in the 21st Century; however, it is in my case, and I am doing what I can to provide devices that will allow access to tools that I know will help my students succeed.  I have applied for grants, but the tech department in my district won’t approve affordable devices:  disappointing to say the least.  I am on the lookout for old laptops that can be revived with Ubuntu or some flavor of Linux, and that search will continue as the school days pass by (160+ more school days which turns out to be only 160 hours that my students spend in class for the year – time is short!).  I am trying to make the best of a difficult situation, but I’m not sure it is the best way.  I also don’t think this solution will last much longer.  I’m looking to go elswhere to find a place that will invest in the education of my students and children, and I know now that it is definitely not here.  Chime in if you have other ideas that may help.  Happy computing!

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Screen Shot 2013-04-06 at 6.59.25 AMIt has been quite some time since I last posted here at HIT.  Since returning to the classroom last fall I have been busy educating the youth of America, at least those that set foot in Room 100 at Adams Middle School.  Our journey together is almost finished in terms of the school year, and we have some evidence to show for it online.  Our American History site can be found at oxpower.org in all its glory.  There are several student projects shared on the home page for your viewing pleasure.  The resources that we use on a daily basis are found mostly via the “Agenda” links in the right hand column, and here you can see all sorts of practice that has been going on on a daily basis.  I hope my students are ready to go to the high school.  I feel like they are getting there, but I also know it will be a whole new “ballgame” for them.  I think they are ready for high school social studies…

Any subject area teacher can and should create curriculum tools that can help students that require accommodations in their learning.  This is key to differentiated learning and instruction.  When I think of my content area of social studies I know that it can require a lot of reading.  Vocabulary is an important piece of knowledge that can help students make their way through the content, and I try to create or find activities that support vocabulary acquisition.

In the past I have utilized sites like Quia to create activities that build and reinforce vocabulary knowledge.  Quia activities like flashcards, matching, concentration, word search, and hangman are a few that present vocabulary in a fun way.  You can also create cloze reading activities with Quia that enable a user to read passages of text and identify key terms that complete a paragraph.  Online textbook resources also often have ready made vocabulary activities that can make it much easier for students to navigate text or take an active part in classroom discussions and projects.  Online textbooks are also interactive and most have an audio or read-aloud feature built into the text.

The following are several examples of vocabulary and reading activities that I have created or found and linked to that assist all students and especially those that may struggle with reading (especially see the flashcards, matching, concentration, word search, hangman, jumbled words, pop ups, and cloze activities).

American History Vocabulary and Reading Activities

World Geography Activities

Hokanson’s American History Quia Class Page

Help your students gain a better understanding of the content by accessing the reading tools that are all around you or create some today.  Technology makes for better and more complete learning, and your students deserve to utilize these tools.

Our school district has an extensive collection of VHS educational videos that are being retired.  With the incredible online video resources that exist, it was only a matter of time before we began the move to digital video resources.  Nevertheless, it takes time to discover quality online video that embeds into one’s curriculum.  The following are a few sites that I have found to be very useful.  Of course, the best videos would be the one’s you let your students make!!!

Sixty Symbols:  If you are looking for great science videos, you will find them here!  The University of Nottingham has all kinds of great videos on many subjects including this language arts gem – Words of the World.

Khan Academy:  Especially great Math and Science videos!

National Writing Project (YouTube site):  “The National Writing Project focuses the knowledge, expertise, and leadership of our nation’s educators on sustained efforts to improve writing and learning for all learners.”

Snag Learning:  “SnagLearning is dedicated to presenting high-quality documentary films as educational tools to ignite meaningful discussion within the learning community.”

WatchKnow:  “Hundreds of thousands of great short videos, and other media, explaining every topic taught to school kids,” with a handy age filter.

A few weeks ago I “retired” my iPod Touch G1 (my oldest son will help it to live on) and purchased the new iPod Touch G4.  Obviously I noticed quite a leap ahead in features, and I am discovering some very useful and fun apps that I would like to share.

Dragon Dictation Free:  This tool allows me to dictate a few notes via voice and it does a fair job of getting most of what I say into text.  If I speak clearly and avoid my Wyoming twang it works!

SimpleMind $6.99:  This is a mind mapping tool that I have begun to find useful in taking quick notes.

Skype Free:  VOIP calls on my iPod Touch are nice, very nice (must have a wifi connection).

WordPress Free:  Create a new post right from your iPod Touch.

Delicious Bookmarks Free:  Round up your Delicious links.

iMovie $4.99:  I haven’t had a chance to edit much video yet, but what I have been able to do is amazing!

See This $0.99:  An interesting photo app that allows you to take multiple shots and combines them into a sort of collage.

Comic Touch $2.99:  Add captions to your photos.

StoryKit Free:  Create your own story books.

Video Physics Free:  Shoot a movie and track objects.

RedLaser Free:  A barcode scanner (the one I’ve been able to get to work!)