Sunday, June 23, 2013

Digital Science Notebooks using iPads: Google Drive/Blogger vs. Evernote?

My students had been using a class set of iPads for a semester last school year.  Many times, students would ask, "Why are we still using paper?"  My goal for this school year is to  become a paperless (or near paperless) classroom.  I don't think I can do this 100% just yet, some students don't have an easy time accessing technology outside of my class, so I have to provide paper instructions, but I want to head in that direction.  

For the last few months I have been thinking about how I can have my students keep a digital science notebook.  Ideally, it would include class notes (from their watching of flip class videos I have created), lab reports, analysis of reading and current events, and reflections on what they are learning.  (I have had them keep a spiral notebook containing all of this in the past.)

Last year, I had students use Google Drive, Blogger, and Schoology for a lot of their work.  Students would write papers in google docs, then submit them to Schoology for me to grade, or post the work on their blog.  Sometimes they would share their google docs with me when I used the scripts Autocrat or Doctopus.  If students wrote something by hand, they would take a photo of it in google drive, then submit it to Schoology.   So I wasn't really collecting anything on paper, but I was still giving them handouts with instructions.   In addition, many times students were still doing their work on paper.  (I gave my students the option on how to complete their assignments.  Some students still did not feel comfortable creating and doing all assignments on the iPads, so they always had the choice to create things on paper.)

I really liked using Schoology to collect all the assignments.  I could give students feedback, they could resubmit their work, and there was no way for me to loose a paper or for the student to say "I swear I turned it in" because everything is timestamped when submitted online.  I could also assign grades in Schoology and I could grade assignments anywhere.  Schoology also lets my students have structured online conversations, and it is great for exams.  My students can take multiple choice, fill in the blank, as well as essay type exams.  It was easy for me to grade the exams, and I didn't have to carry around stacks of essays to read, it was all online.

This year, I want to utilize the digital science notebook a little more. I want it to be a portfolio of their best work.  When students turn things in using Schoology, they have access to all of their assignments, but it isn't as easy as flipping through a notebook.  I want students to have everything in one spot which is easily accessible.  I want my students to reference their work and not just forget it is there.  So I have been looking at using Evernote for this or utilizing Google Drive a little differently where students can post links to their work with reflections on a blog.  

Here are some comparison from my research.

Using iPads
·      Just one app to use
·      Searchable (can search for typed and handwritten text)
·      Can take photos from within app and record audio

·      Students can’t share folder (Teacher has a premium acct and shares w/ each student, but students can’t share or collaborate w/ others)
·     I could get a business account for my students, but it costs about $30/student/year.
Google Drive & Blogger
·      Students can share with others to collaborate and comment
·      Blog is public to the world.  When students publish on the web where the world can see, they tend to take their work more seriously.
·      Students can easily add youtube videos which they have created in iMovie or Explain Everything to their blog.
·      Have to use multiple programs (Drive app – only allows docs and spreadsheet, drive on browser using desktop view – allows you to add pics and additional things than the app, blogger app – most reliable to use when on the iPad, blogger on browser – to create an account)
·      Documents can’t be searched like Evernote
·     Using the Drive app, students can only share docs with an email, they can't get the link to share and post the link.

At this point, I am thinking I like the ease of using Evernote on the iPads.  I love that everything (taking pics and recording audio) can be done right in the app.  But I really want the students to be able to collaborate and share with a larger audience.  So even though it will require a few more steps in some cases, I think I am going to have my students set up blogs and continue to use Google Drive.

I will still be able to have students turn in some assignments using Schoology, but I can have   important assignments shared on their blogs.  I want to try to minimize the number of apps/tech I use.  I don't want to overwhelm my students.  However, I think that the blogs will allow my students to share and get feedback from peers and others across the world.

If you have any experience with this, or suggestions, ideas, etc. please share with me.  I am still not entirely convinced I have made the best decision, and wold love feedback.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How to Build your PLN using Twitter

What is a PLN? 
I didn't know the answer up until a few months ago. I learned all about it on Twitter. A PLN is a personal (or professional) learning network. 

As an educator, you may not find all the answers or support you need within your department, school, or district. Maybe you are the only teacher at your school who teaches a certain subject.  Maybe you are looking to find new and innovative ways to teach your curriculum.  You might need help on a lesson or unit.   Or you might want to try out new ideas, but you want some feedback or guidance before you tackle something new.  Maybe something didn't go well in your class and you want some feedback or guidance from others.  Or maybe, something went really well and you want to share your student successes with others.   Your PLN is a group of educators that can guide and support you, answer questions, give you advice, share lessons and ideas, and encourage you in your quest to become a better educator.  

So how do you build a PLN?  
You can go to conferences and workshops to meet other educators.  However, many times there is not money available at schools to pay for this.  So the best way, I believe  is through twitter.  I have been on twitter for years.  I never really tweeted, but followed a few companies and organizations to learn about sales or upcoming events, but that was about it.  I didn't really understand twitter.  I didn't want to know what celebrities were up to, or what so and so had for lunch or dinner that day.  I had seen people at the ISTE conference a few years ago tweeting, but I still didn't understand why.  

Last August, I attended Ed Camp SF Bay, and met many inspiring educators.  They were sharing ideas, best practices, and tips during the "un"conference.  They also all were talking about twitter and tweeting out things they learned that day.  I started to follow these people, and people they followed.  It took me a few months of twitter "stalking" - where I just followed what people were doing and I learned a lot from them.  

After a few months of just reading other tweets, I mustered up the courage to start participating in some twitter chats.  I started to find teachers near and far who had similar views as me and were trying out the same sort of things in their classrooms.  When I was trying to create a instruction sheet for my students on how to properly use Creative Commons images in their presentations, I sent out a tweet looking for advice, and got a lot of responses with ideas and resources.  When a website was down that I was using in my class, I sent out a tweet, and the company responded and fixed it right away.  Using twitter, I have learned about new iPad apps, local conferences, and have interacted with many innovative and inspiring educators.  I have built a PLN consisting of many amazing people who help me be a better teacher.  And my PLN is still growing.

So how do you get started on twitter?
The first thing to do is set up an account. 

  • Choose a twitter handle.  This is basically your username.  I would suggest having it have something to do with your name, and make it short.  If it is really long, it will be hard for people to retweet your tweets.  Mine is @mdhero, which are my initials and my last name.
  • Include a picture and a bio on your profile.  If you don't have these, many people won't choose to follow you.  They want to know who you are and what you are tweeting about.  Be sure to say that you are an educator and list some examples of things that intereset you.  My biography from twitter is above.
  • Make sure that your twitter account is public.  If it is private, people won't be able to add you to their PLN.  You want to be able to tweet out questions, and if it is private, most people won't see your tweet.  Just make sure that you are professional when you tweet.  Don't complain about your school or talk about specific students, etc.
After setting up an account, you need to start following people.  The best way to find other educators is to search for hashtags that interest you, then follow people who are posting things that you like.  A hashtag is a tag that you add to your tweet.  Some common educational hashtags that I use are:
  • #caedchat  (California Educators)
  • #edchat (Education)
  • #flipclass  (Flip teaching)
  • #smartee  (SMART Board Education)
  • #iPadEd (Using iPads)
  • #NGSSchat (Next Generation Science Standards)
There are many more education hashtags.  There are subject area specific ones, as well as many general ones for different types of educators (administrators, librarians, counselors, etc.)  Here is a list of different educational hashtags.  It also includes a list of chat times.  Most of these have weekly chat times where there are hour long conversations.  I have participated in the ones I have listed above.  My favorite is the #caedchat on Sunday nights.  It is fast paced, but I always learn a lot.  When you participate in these chats (or even just observe them), you will find a lot of educators that you can follow.  And, you can find more people to follow by looking at who these people follow.

Here are some Twitter Cheat Sheets that @sjunkins posted on twitter that may help you get started.  

So this summer, join twitter.  Get reenergized by learning and sharing with some amazing people.  And if you join, be sure to follow me at @mdhero.