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More Cool Tools and the ASCUE Conference

June 25, 2012 Leave a comment

I am freshly back from the Association of Supporting Computer Users in Education (ASCUE) conference. It was really great and I got lots of ideas that I want to share with you.

North Myrtle Beach view from Ocean Creek

One idea I liked was using Google Sites for student e-portfolios. You can create custom templates for a program, individual, or course that the students can easily access and utilize. They can upload work and customize their portfolio. Their work is then available for job interviews and keeping a running history of their college careers. This would work in high school as well.

Here is a list of gadgets that I highly recommend checking out that were talked about at the conference:

  • Swivyl camera mount: it works with iphone, ipod touch and flip type cameras. Follows the speaker. Very cool. (http://www.swivl.com/)
  • Finch Robot: for the physicists and computer programmers, this is a great robot to teach programming. Many programming languages can be used so this spans many grade levels. (http://www.finchrobot.com/)
  • One talk recommended the Aver HVC310 HD for video conferencing on a budget. I have not checked it out so can’t say but they were pleased with it.

As for other ideas my friend Tom Marcais described his school’s process of developing video tutorials for faculty and staff. The process heavily involves students which I think is great. They write the script and produce the screen captures using Screencast-o-matic. Once they are proficient, they can create music loops for the background as well. Check out the results! (http://www.youtube.com/user/tmarcais)

As for this year’s cool tools here is my link to this year’s finds: http://www.delicious.com/fyerphys/ascue12

The highlights:

  • TedEd: a collection of educational cartoons that also included lesson plans and quizzes that you can use or you can “flip” a video and create your own lesson for others to take advantage of. (http://education.ted.com/)
  • Screenleap: instant screensharing great for support and impromptu tutoring or meetings. (http://www.screenleap.com/)
  • If This, Then That: Really cool site that lets you really maximize your productivity by connecting your various accounts. For example if you favorite a Twitter post then it sends it to your e-mail (or Evernote). Or if a post goes to a favorite RSS feed then it puts it in a certain DropBox folder. (https://ifttt.com/login)
  • Remind 101: This site allows you to send texts to anyone who has signed up for your “class”. You don’t see their phone numbers and they don’t see yours. They can sign up using an e-mail address too. Great for sending students reminders and important notices. You can even schedule your texts in advance! (https://www.remind101.com/)

If you find a couple of these things helpful, you need to come to next year’s ASCUE conference in North Myrtle Beach in June. (http://ascue.org/) There were many more ideas just like these. Come join the fun!

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Summer is over…more tech for the classroom

September 15, 2011 Leave a comment

What a summer! Where did it go? Time for new students, a new year and new technology. One thing I did this summer was try out some of the new tablets that are out there. I am certainly not Consumer Reports but I can tell you my experiences. I tried two different Android tablets. The first was the Acer Iconia A500. Now I have an Android phone so I am fond of the operating system. The new Honeycomb was nice but took a little getting used to as all new things do. Lots of nice applications that are available which are usually free. Overall I liked this tablet but it did lock up every other day or so for two weeks. That was not pleasant to deal with. The other Android tablet I tried was the Asus Transformer. I liked the way this tables was set up right out of the box. It did not crash or lock up once when I had it. You can get a physical keyboard and attach this tablet which is nice but I did not try that feature. The biggest drawback with this device was the speakers, microphone and camera. I used both tablets to do Google Video chat with my brother and this one was unacceptable. My brother could not hear me well and I could barely hear him. It was frustrating.

Now I am working with an Ipad 1. I was holding out going with the Apple but I must say that it is pretty handy. It has not crashed at all. I have found several apps that are useful for teaching. I have found an app to keep attendance, TeacherPal, and I can access my text books with ease. I did not find that very easy with the Android version. E-mail and calendaring has been effortless. My favorite productivity apps, DropBox and Evernote work well on the Ipad. Now I know that the Android version supports these applications as well but it does not seem to work as well.  Granted I cannot do a Google video chat with my brother on the Ipad 1 but if this keeps going well I will upgrade to the Ipad 2 (or 3?) at some point.

Here is a good blog post on applications that fit into Bloom’s Taxonomy for the Ipad. I like how it is laid out. This is assuming some of the students have Ipads though. Another useful site for Ipad in education has a lot of good information. Every day I seem to find more applications that are useful. Notarize is a nice app for taking handwritten notes and writing on top of PDFs. It integrates with lots of other applications such as DropBox. If only it did flash…

So let me know how you use your tablet in the classroom for for productivity. Leave a comment!

Faculty and Student Support Using Screenr

May 18, 2011 1 comment

I have been doing more support in the last few weeks than usual so this is on my mind. I often get e-mails from faculty asking how to do something in our learning management system. (which we are in the process of changing) Sometimes the faculty are forwarding questions their students had that they could not answer. Rather than just answer in words to that one person, I create a quick screen-cast in Screenr. This allows me to better answer their question as well as create an archived answer if I should get the question again.

screenr logo

If you are not familiar with Screenr, I encourage you to try it out. Yes, it is another screen-casting tool like so many out there but I believe Screenr is better. There is no figuring out screen size or all that. You just drag the handles to the screen area you want to cover. It gives a nice count-down to prepare you for your big debut. Just recently added is the ability to sign into Screenr with Twitter, Facebook, Google, or Yahoo. The web based application is platform independent.

When you have finished your masterpiece, you can copy the URL, or two different types of embed codes. You can also download the mp4 file which could then be edited with another product. It also makes it easy to tweet your screen-cast or upload it to Youtube with simple clicks. I have used many of these types of products and this is by far the easiest and most mistake proof. Oh and did I mention that it is FREE.

It has really come in handy lately. And don’t worry if your screen-casts are not perfect. People just want the answer. For the last faculty member who had a student “how to” question, I created a quick screen-cast and sent her the link. She then posted the link in the learning management system so that other students would benefit too. So maybe it took me 5 minutes to do but it answered what was sure to be a lot of similar questions. I have also used Screenr in conjunction with my Eno (smart) board. I am able to capture my work on the white board to post for students later. (https://janethurn.wordpress.com/2010/09/22/some-of-my-favorite-things-part-1/)

Here is a link to my Screenr page. Give Screenr a try!

Using Evernote To Stay Organized and Efficient

January 20, 2011 1 comment

The two popular topics for January are get healthy and get organized. So eat your veggies and start using Evernote. I mentioned Evernote before in my Let’s Be Productive Post. Everynote allows you to make a note out of just about anything. You can do a simple text note, picture, web clip, web link, voice note, and screen shot. You name your notes and you can tag your notes. Two different ways to keep yourself organized. AND you can do a search in Evernote that looks at what the contents of your note is. So if you take a picture of a business card, you can do a search for that person or organization and that business card picture will come up. No more piles of business cards!

Organize Your Thoughts

Do you write a blog or do a news letter? Evernote is what you need. If you are searching the web and come across a great addition to your next issue, clip it into Evernote. You are driving down the road and get a great idea. Pull over (safety first!) and make a quick audio note in Evernote. You are waiting for an appointment and you want to start that next article. Open Evernote on your smart phone and start writing. You can tag all of your notes about the same topic so when you are ready to write that blog or article, they are all right there.

It is that time of year that many academics are required to write that annual report. It has to be one of the more unpleasant parts of teaching, in my opinion. So this year I did something a little different. I used Evernote. So you have notes entitled “presentations” , “publications”, “workshops” etc.  As you do one of these activities, open the note and quickly write down the details. You can tag them all with the same tag such as “annualrpt10”. You can also throw in links to that conference you attended or that article that mentioned your name. Spend 5 minutes here and there and it will save you hours at the end of the year.

I just read a blog post about using Evernote to organize your classroom: lesson plans, grades, class notes, ideas. Check it out here. There are also some tips for students to use Evernote. Students can use it to organize their research for a paper or project. They could actually take class notes in Evernote. With the share feature, they are able to share their work on group projects.

Organize Your “Outside” Life

You can utilize Evernote in your non-academic life as well. Say you are remodeling a room or a house. You can take pictures on your smartphone of an idea or building material and put it in Evernote. I then note the store name and price for future reference. You can keep todo lists, Christmas gift lists, and shopping lists on Evernote. These notes can include pictures or web links of the best prices. The fact that Evernote syncs is what makes it so useful. You can put one note in from your phone, one from your home pc, and another from you laptop and they are all synced in the same place.

The uses are endless. I found some more just writing this post. Give Evernote a try and comment on how you like to use it.

Categories: productivity, software

Let’s be productive!

October 13, 2010 Leave a comment

I thought I would highlight some of my favorite free productivity applications. Many of you might already be using some of these but hopefully you will find a new one. Again I can’t stress the importance of the right tool for the right job. We all work in different ways so you have to find the tool that works best for you.

Time Management
We  are all extremely busy and need to make the most of the time we do have. We use Outlook here and I am not sure what I would do without the calendar. I find it especially helpful that is syncs with my Droid so I have my calendar current and updated all the time. If you don’t have that, then use the Google calendar and you can sync that just the same. Just choose ONE calendar that works for you and don’t have several. Too confusing. I already mentioned the to-do list that is working for me. It is called Todoist and is completely web based. It is working much better for me than Outlook and paper. There are some others such as Remember the Milk that are not bad and have a Google gadget. If you are working on a project or a goal such as weight loss or increasing your writing or exercise time, HassleMe is an interesting web application. You put in what you want to do, how often you want to be reminded to do it, and it sends you e-mails at those intervals nagging you to do whatever. I also used to be a big fan of Jott when it first came out but now they charge. You can call the Jott number and say your current thought or idea and it will send you an e-mail with the text translation. I used to use it a lot for all of those brilliant ideas in the car on the way to work. Now I can hold the search button on the Droid (any android phone) and say “note to self…then the note…” . I then hit send (at a stop light of course) and it will go to my gmail. Another one I have run across is Task.fm but I must be honest and say that I have not tried it. It looks like it might have promise though.

I must mention another tip from a colleague of mine (thanks Carolyn S.). She suggested using the timer on my phone to set a specific amount of time and then work on one task during that time. No drifting to e-mail, twitter, facebook, sms, etc. Stay focused for that time period then take a break for social networking. I have not tried it yet. I am afraid I will start twitching.

Collaboration

What would teaching life be without collaboration and meetings? So if you need to schedule a meeting, you have to give Doodle a try. It is fabulous. You can set up some possible days and times, then send the link to your group. They then choose what works best for them. You can then see the grid and choose the best day and time for everyone. It is great for party planning too. Here is a short screencast I made about getting started with Doodle.

Do you have a team working on a project together? Maybe your students need to work on something. Obviously Google Docs and the other Google collaboration tools are very helpful. If you have a gmail account, it certainly takes you a long way. Within your gmail now you can chat, group chat, call someone (yes, to their phone),  talk via computers, or do a video chat. It is all still very free. I have tested all of these communications and they are great. Don’t leave them out of your communication bag of tricks. I also really love Dropbox. You can access your files on any computer via the web interface or installed application. When you drag and drop a file to your Dropbox, it will sync to all of your other devices as well. You can set up shared folders for your team members as well as put up web pages. It is simple and slick. I strongly recommend you give it a try. (click on my referral link!)

If you want to step out of the Google realm, there is another company that has a nice suite of applications you might want to check out. Zoho is primarily geared toward businesses but you might find something they do that you can use. Most of the collaboration tools are free for light use so give it a try. I keep an account just in case. Teambox is another web based project management application. You can have 3 projects for free. I have not used it extensively but seems to have some promise.

Work Flow

I am often asked how I keep track of all these new programs and web applications (trust me I have only shared a few). The main application that keeps me current is Twitter. Yes I said Twitter. I finally found what Twitter could do for me. I follow folks  who know about elearning, and educational technology. I can scan through 100 twitter posts in a relatively short amount of time on the computer or my phone. If I am pressed for time, I just mark the ones that sound interesting as favorites. If I have time, I look at the articles or links they refer to. And no I don’t care who had what for lunch. I can get a LOT of great information and ideas in a very short period of time. Do some searches for a particular hashtag such as  #elearning or whatever you are interested in. Read some of those posts and you will start learning who might be useful for you to follow. Here is a great Twitter cheat sheet to help get you started.

Now the way I keep track of all of these great finds is through social bookmarking. Delicious is my site of choice. You can tag  your links or bookmarks to help keep them organized. You can send links to people for all of your bookmarks or just certain tags. People can follow your bookmarks through RSS. You can set up sharing as well. Great for students doing some group research too. And your bookmarks are web based so no more trying to remember which computer your bookmarks are on. Check out this short screencast about Delicious. For more details check out this blog post.

One final tool that I have had for a long time but am finding more and more useful everyday is Evernote. Evernote is a note tool that allows you to make written notes, audio notes, or picture notes. You can then tag them to stay organized. They are search able too. Even the picture notes are search able. So you can take pictures of business cards and Evernote will make the contents of the cards search able. That is really nice. If you see that cool gadget  that you want to research more about, take a picture and put it in Evernote. If you have that great idea, make an audio note on your smart phone in Evernote. If you find a link or good idea for your next blog post, leave it in Evernote. I have to write an annual report each year. When I do something or go to a presentation, I make a note in Evernote. At the end of the year, I will collect all those items that I tagged “annualrpt10”,  and hopefully that will shorten my report writing considerably.

Ok, that is a lot to look over. Set your phone for 30 minutes and start checking it all out. Post a comment on how you use the tools above or suggest some others. If you want to see more details on a particular tool in another post, just let me know.

twitter pic from http://www.pcmag-mideast.com/2010/07/21/ultimate-twitter-tool-guide-part-2/