Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Forget Those Outdated Flash Drives!

As the new school year gets started there's always plenty of work to be done.  Sometimes, that work is done with late nights at school or home.  But wherever you work, the ability to take your work with you can sometimes be just a little cumbersome.  I can't count how many flash drives I've lost, or time I've wasted e-mailing documents to myself.  So here's a great tool that I've known about for some time, but only recently put into practice....Dropbox. will take you to this fabulous life saving tool.  After creating an account Dropbox will begin downloading to your computer.  The "download" is essentially just the adding of a folder to your My Documents folder or a location of your choice.  If you want to be able to access files from other locations simply save the file in the Dropbox folder and off you go.  Download Dropbox on any computers you use as well as almost any mobile device.  And yes, on mobile devices you can view almost any file including documents, spreadsheets, and pictures.  If you happen to be somewhere where Dropbox hasn't been downloaded simply go to the website, log-in, and access your files that way.   Some advanced features include creating a public folder you can share the link to (think class information on your school website), or share a folder with specific people so they can contribute files as well.  You get 2GB of space for a free account, with the ability to earn more space for completing tasks or sharing with friends, and if you are willing to pay can upgrade to accounts with 50 and 100GB of space.

Never again lose a flash drive with crucial files, spend time trying to figure out how to get the files, or being able to access them from wherever you happen to be. This is one of the easiest tools I've integrated into my every day work and will definitely be one I utilize for years to come.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

5 Great Sites to Start the Year Off Right

There are so many resources out there for teachers now that the problem is no longer.. "I can't find..." but it is instead, "How can I sort through all of this?"  Although there are a lot of resources out are 5 that I can't live without as I start this new school year.

This website transformed my classroom last year as I struggled to find a way for students to submit assignments electronically.  Create classes, have discussions, turn in and grade assignments, and most importantly keep connected with your students.  I used it with 4th-8th graders, and all students were equally excited.  In recent months Edmodo has pushed teacher communities and they have grown exponentially.  Now it's extremely easy to join communities related to subject areas and connect with other teachers.

This is a wonderful site for students and teachers alike.  Create interactive posters with pictures, links, video, and audio.  Students will have a great time creating these and sharing them with their classmates.  As a teacher I have also used Glogs to share links and instructions with students in a fun interactive manner.  The Glogster EDU site has a free teacher version where you can create 50 student accounts.  The only downside of the free version is you cannot create student usernames (they are gibberish letters/numbers), but students will get used to that.

This website was a lifesaver more times than I can count.  If you are looking for any type of resource, literally anything, you can find it here.  Jerry Blumengarten has created a very simple site that is updated quite frequently with resources on everything from Smart Board resources, to Graphic Organizers, to Special Education.  One of my favorite things about this site is that as special events or news stories arise he compiles links and resources that are relevant for you and your students.  This is definitely one to keep bookmarked and frequently check up on.

 Kidblog is a great site for any age level and subject area.  Create a free teacher account and student accounts to manage student blogs and comments.  There is no limit to what you can do with student blogging including writing constructed responses, having students write results of research, for formative assessment, and to do collaborative projects.  Need some ideas on how to use student blogs? Check out Cybrary Man's Student Blog or Class Blog Pages.

A never ending favorite, I always seem to find some use for Google Tools in my classes.  In particular my favorites are:
  • Docs: Collaborative document work with students, i.e. multiple students working on the same project at once
  • Earth/Maps: Exploration of everything on earth and even beyond
  • Books/News/Etc.: Customize your search for news articles, books, images, and much more 
  • WDYL: Stands for "What Do You Love?", type in any topic and see the search results relating to just about everything and that topic.  For instance see pictures, 3D images, translations, search interest, videos, maps, and discussions all on one page.