Thursday, April 28, 2011

Too much to remember!

As many of you (probably all of you) know, there is a lot to remember to do and know these days and not enough hours in the day. Trying to remember EVERYTHING that you have to do gets overwhelming and is sometimes impossible. Some people turn to smart phones and organizers. Personally, I think my smart phone was a great investment. I definitely use it to keep track of things that I have to do. Particularly, I use the sticky note application. Other people use calendars and other organizers to keep track of everything. This is also a good option. However, what if you forget your calendar at home? What if you can not afford a smart phone or you can't use it in school?

An alternative to those options is creating an online to-do list! There are plenty of sites that let you create free accounts that you can access from any computer or browser. Since everyone is very busy these days, this is a very convenient tool. There are plenty of options out there to create an online to-do list. Some of them include:
  • Strike App
  • Ta-da List
  • Wipee List
  • Squareleaf
  • Sticky Screen
These are just some of the more popular options available. Personally, I think Squareleaf and Sticky Screen are great because you can arrange different post-it notes. Strike App is another one that is very simple and easy to manage by just "x-ing" out the things that are done.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bringing Gaming into Education

The first article I decided to read this week was titled "Welcome to Our Virtual Worlds", by James Paul Gee. I was really impressed as I read this article. It had to do with using games in an educational way and also preparing for the 21st century learner. Being a fan of video games, I couldn't agree more with what he had to say. There is a lot of good that can be found in video games, if you look at the right ones. It doesn't matter what the game is about, there can be good educational uses for it. Whether it is the content of the game or the thought process that the game inflicts, there are great games out there. I was glad to hear about games that a lot of us are probably familiar with. Some of those games include Oregon Trail and Sim City. I remember playing Oregon Trail in lower elementary school. From what I remember, it taught us how to make decisions based on the information at hand. I also remember playing Sim City. The version I had is not nearly in depth as the one mentioned in the article, but it was still a strategic game. I liked the idea of using Sim City to recreate the city they were living in. Another game that I think can be educational is Roller Coaster Tycoon. This was a game I played when I was younger and is similar to Sim City, except in the form of a theme park. You have to strategically build your park, hire workers, and keep the prices right for the visitors. Gaming can be a big part of education. We just need to figure out a way to implement it into the existing curriculum.

The second article I read for this week was titled "Good Video Games and Good Learning", also by James Paul Gee. This article not only focused on why video games can be a good idea in education, but it mainly focuses on what makes a video game great. He starts off by explaining how he got into video games and that he realized it was a task that is challenging and keeps your attention for an extended period of time. He then goes through 16 different points about why video games are good and why they are good for educational purposes. This was an easy article to relate to because I am familiar with some of the games that he mentions. He leaves us by posing a question. He asks us "How can we make learning in and out of school, with or without using games, more game-like in the sense of using the sorts of learning
principles that young people see in good games every day, when and if they are playing these games reflectively and strategically?" I thought this was an amazing question because I feel this should be our goal as educators. We should be trying to figure out ways to keep our students interested in their education.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

SMART Exchange - Tic Tac Toe

One of my favorite lessons that I have found on SMART Exchange has always been the Jeopardy template. I had teachers who used it when I was in high school and I used it myself when I was student teaching. I found another template similar to it when I was student teaching. Instead of modeling Jeopardy, it models the game "tic tac toe".

I think tic tac toe works as a quicker review than Jeopardy does. It is a shorter game and there can only be two teams. For this reason, it works well with smaller groups. However, it is still a very fun and effective review. Each spot on the tic tac toe board represents a review question. One group gets to choose a question on the board. They have the opportunity to answer the question first. If they answer correct, they get to put their "x" or "o" in that place. If they get it wrong, the other group has a chance to steal that space. If both groups get it wrong, the space stays vacant and the next group picks a question.

It is a very easy template to work with. It is similar to the Jeopardy template, if anyone has used that before. The only preparation you need to do after downloading the template is changing the questions. Everything else you need is right there for you.

The lesson template can be found at:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Open Source - Tux Paint

The open source software I decided to explore from is called Tux Paint. Tux paint is a drawing program for young children with sound effects, graphics, backgrounds, shapes, text, and more. It is similar to the layout of the classic paint program, but I feel it has better features. One of the best things that stood out to me was the option to place a preset background before you start drawing.

When you start the program you see a blank screen for you to free draw. The left panel on the screen has all of the different tools you can choose from. These tools include paint brushes, stamps, liens, shapes, text, graphic effects, eraser, and the undo button. The right panel shows all of your options for those different tools. Foe example, when you click shapes, all of the different shapes you can make are shown on the right side. When you click magic, all of the different graphics are shown on the right side. The same is true for each tool. Below the workspace shows all of the colors to choose from. I was very impressed with the amount this program can do for such a young audience and the quality of the pictures that come out.

From an educational standpoint, this would be a great program to get students adapted to computer graphics or just an introduction to the computer. The program is targeted for a younger audience, so this program would fit well in an elementary setting. I can see it fitting well with an interdisciplinary unit between art and social studies or english. Having students use computers to create a picture of what they read may bring out some interesting pictures from students. Another great piece of this software for educators is the configuration tools. You can disable certain features if you choose to do so. I recommend looking into Tux Paint!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My First PLE

Before this week, I had not known what a PLE was and have never heard of it before. Now, after looking at PLE's for not even a week, I am completely amazed by them. The video of the seventh grade girl with her own PLE just blew my mind. I couldn't believe how efficient it was and that it was so effective for education. It was so crazy to see how everything she needed was right there for her. Everything possible was just a click away!

Even though the PLE utilized RSS feeds, I noticed a similarity between the two. Both tools brought everything into one place, so you don't have to go to a hundred different places to view everything. They make life a lot easier and a lot more convenient. I also noticed that the layout of the PLE that the seventh grade girl used was similar to an iPod Touch or an iPhone, two devices that almost all students would be familiar with. This gives students an edge already having a familiar use to something they already know.

In the blog post "If this is your first PLE" by, Tom Haskins, he focuses on creating your first PLE. He mentions that the PLE has to be about your own interests. That is the fuel that keeps the PLE going and makes everything work. If you are not into it yourself, it will just die out. Then, it becomes just a regular class assignment. An assignment that students complete just because they are supposed to complete it and get a grade. He says that PLE's are self propelled and only happen when they energize and fulfill you.

With the current education system, do you think PLE's have a legitimate chance to become popular in schools as a primary source of education?

If so, how long do you think it will take?

If This is Your First PLE
By Tom Haskins

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Alternative Presentation Software

I know when most of us think about giving a presentation, we go right for the default choice of Microsoft PowerPoint! Well, what if for some crazy circumstances that Microsoft PowerPoint wasn't available or wasn't working? What would we all do? Even though they may not be that popular (partly because we haven't used them yet), there are quite a few alternatives we can turn to.

Probably the most similar to Microsoft PowerPoint is Zipcast. One of the great things about it is that all of your slides are stored online instead of on a computer. You don't have to worry about putting your presentation on a flash drive or forgetting it on your home computer. Also, you can set your slides to be viewed privately or publicly if you would like feedback.

The next one is called Big marker. This is a great option for conducting online tutoring sessions and other meetings. You can host a public or private meeting room, where you can use audio, video, and screen sharing to conduct a meeting. Another screen sharing program to use is It is very similar, where you can either host or a join a specific session. You can screen share with others and even give control to one person. Lastly, Scribblar is a free collaboration software. Users can collaborate on the creation of images, drawings, and mathematics functions on a whiteboard. It also supports voice chat. So for the future, when you're thinking of giving a presentation, why not try something new?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

President's Day Activity!

From an outside edublog titled "Free Technology for Teachers" I saw an interesting post pertaining to President's Day. The post was a youtube video of the cartoon "Animaniacs". The video clip was about a 3.5 minute long review of the Presidents of the United States in a song version. Two things came to mind. Keeping up with current events in the classroom and making education interesting for students.

I thought it was great to see a video like this come up when President's Day rolled around. I really like to see people celebrate or at least acknowledge any type of holiday. From an educational standpoint, a video like this can be shown in class or even assigned for students to watch at home as a quick activity to acknowledge President's Day. If the teacher wanted to, they can even attach a small assignment to the notion of President's Day.

I also thought it was a great video to come across because it is educational AND it can be entertaining to students. When training to become teachers we hear so much about making education interesting or making education meaningful to THEM. Videos like this are little things that a teacher can do to fulfill both of those demands. It reviews the history of every President (up to Bill Clinton when the video was made) and does it in a funny way where students will remember.

The link to this blog can be found at