Websites Made Easy

Back in the early 2000s, when websites were becoming a bigger part of internet you had to be a computer expert and somewhat of a programmer to get one up. Understanding URLs (Uniform Resource Locators), file names and extensions, and basic HTML (Hypertext Mark-Up Language) to create the components of a web page (Hahn, 2000). Then website design entered the picture with creating graphics and writing CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) becoming important in creating a website. Now, there are many free hosting sites that provide nicely designed templates that leave a teacher free to just worry about the content.

The questions then becomes, “To blog or not to blog?” Most of the free hosting sites come with a blog feature. So, you ask yourself, “Do I need a blog?” or “How often will I have time to update a blog?” Then you realize that you only need a website to communicate with students and/or parents, so you don’t realize that you only need to update homework, post thought-provoking questions for students to comment on, and highlight certain things going on in the classroom. While this is not actual blogging, it can posted just the same. A blog website it is!

Now, you think, “Ok, I guess my students should create a blog.” (depending on the age of the students, of course). What a great way to get them to experience posting on the internet? Wait, don’t they already do that on Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, etc.? Here is where your expertise comes in handy, your guidance as a teacher to teach them about being a good digital citizen and how when something goes up it isn’t easily forgotten, even if deleted. It’s an opportunity to discuss copyright issues and how to properly cite references when “borrowing/showing/displaying” someone else’s work.

Blogs can be used for a number of things for students in the classroom. According to Richardson (2010), they can be used for class portals, online filing cabinets for students work, e-portfolios, collaborative space, and knowledge management. This is great, so now you think, “How do I fit creating a blog into my already packed day of planning?”

Here’s where the easy part comes! With very minimum time or effort and no money at all, you can create a website in the time it took you read this article. Here is a list of some of the free websites that provide website hosting and templates. Just sign up, follow the instructions, and input your content. It’s that easy!

  1. Blogger – whether you’d like to share your knowledge, experiences or the latest news, create a unique and beautiful blog for free.
  2. Google Sites – a free and easy way to create and share webpages
  3. Wix – customize with the free website builder, no coding skills needed, just choose a design and begin
  4. WordPress – create a free website or easily build a blog with hundreds of free, customizable, mobile-ready designs and themes, free hosting and support
    • WordPress for Beginners – resource site with easy to understand WordPress tutorials for mastering the basics and beyond, sign up for free

References:

Hahn, Harley. (2000). Harley Hahn Teaches the Internet (2nd ed.). Indianapolis, Indiana: Que.

Richardson, Will. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Tools for Classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.

Sound Check…What Do You Use?

Audio tools can be tricky, they can either be super easy or super intimidating. If you don’t know what you are to doing to begin, then the task of using audio tools can be daunting. Luckily, there are some great reviews done by teachers that will show you the way and get comfortable with using an audio tool that your students can use just as easily.

Audacity

Ocenaudio

Tools for Making Videos

YouTube is the place to go to watch videos by either amateurs or professionals. Approximately 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute and almost 5 billion videos are watched on Youtube every single day! Whether on computer or mobile, watching videos for entertainment or instructions/tutorials is not going to fade. Why not embrace this medium and learn how to create your own videos. In addition, you become the role model for students in digital citizenship and can then incorporate it into your lessons so your students can follow your lead.

Here are some reviews/tutorials on a few technology tools that will allow you or your students to create a video for class.

Camtasia

Powtoon

Screencastify


References:

Donchev, Danny. (2017, March 23). 36 Mind Blowing YouTube Facts, Figures, and Statistics – 2017. Retrieved from https://fortunelords.com/youtube-statistics/

Which Image Editor Should I Use?

When you are trying to decide what program or software to use, it can be overwhelming! As a teacher, time is precious and deciding what to use, learning how to use it, and then incorporating it into a lesson can be more time consuming than expected. There are many out there to choose from, but below you will find only a few review/tutorial videos on image editors from actual teachers to help you in your decision. Sometimes less is more.

Aviary by Adobe

FreeOnlinePhotoEditor.com

PicMonkey.com

Basics of Podcasting

Podcasting, if you don’t already know, is the creation and distribution of amateur radio (Richardson, 2010). Podcasts are fun and interesting to list to and can give some wonderful and useful information.  You can check out the podcast page under Web 2.0 tools  to see a list of educational podcasts for teachers in general or for math, science, social studies/history, reading/writing, or English as a Second Language.

According to Richardson, schools can use it to create a free radio show and world language teachers can record and publish practice lessons, among many other uses. Podcasts are simple and free as long as you have a computer with speakers and a built-in microphone.  There are some things you need before creating your own or having students create their own podcasts (Hesse, 2016):

  1. Planning and Preproduction
    • Theme – go broad and cover a wide variety of topics, or you could go specific
    • Episode length and format – most podcasts do not exceed 60 minutes
    • Script – even if you plan to go off the cuff and improvise your conversations, as most podcasts do, having a general outline to keep yourselves on track is a good idea
    • Scheduling – how often you want your podcast to air
  2. Podcasting Equipment
    • Computer – with built-in or attached microphone
    • Quicktime (Mac or PC), Windows Media Player, or any software that allows you to record and edit audio file and save (or convert) to an mp3 file
      • Press record button and begin speaking (try to sound relaxed, not formal or robotic)
      • Press stop when finished (you may need to practice a few times)
      • Save file as mp3 or wav file and convert to an mp3 file
  3. Post-Production

You and your students will be amazed at how easy it is to create a podcast, once you get over hearing your voice and stop using filler words, such as “um” or “uh.” An article from Harvard Extension School tackles this very subject. It is great practice for students to learn how to speak publicly and work together in groups to create something unique.

Good luck and comment how you have used it in your classroom!


References:

Cohen, Steven D. Tips on Public Speaking: Eliminating the Dreaded “Um.” Retrieved from https://www.extension.harvard.edu/inside-extension/tips-public-speaking-eliminating-dreaded-um

Hesse, Brendan. (2016, July 24). How to Make a Successful Podcast. Retrieved from: http://www.digitaltrends.com/how-to/how-to-make-a-podcast/

Richardson, Will. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Tools for Classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.

Social Media

What is social media?

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, social media is a form of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos). Some examples of social media are: Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, Pinterest, and the list goes on and on. According to the research, these are the top most used social networking sites:

Sheet 1

Whether it is connecting with family and friends, trying to find ideas for a lesson, or reading up on the latest trends in technology education, we are spending more and more time on social media, including our students. As mentioned in a previous post on digital citizenship, our students need guidance on how to conduct themselves in these realms.

I believe teachers need to keep up with social media in order to stay in touch with their students. There are so many opportunities to learn about and explore what each social media involves, including how to use them in the classroom. The National Educational Association says to start small, and try integrating a platform you or your students already use. They include a list of media sites to use in your classroom in their article, Social Media Made Easy. Teachers with Apps share 10 Great Ways to Share Social Media in the Classroom. Here is a list of popular social media and how to use each one in the classroom. Please comment if we didn’t include your favorite!

Share with us how you incorporate social media in your classroom.


References:

Castle, Maria. (2016, April 8). 10 Great Ways to Share Social Media in Classroom. Retrieved from: http://www.teacherswithapps.com/10-great-ways-to-use-social-media-in-classroom/

Chadband, Emma. Social Media Made Simple. Retrieved from: http://www.nea.org/tools/53459.htm

Kallas, Priit. (2016, November 28). Top 15 Most Poular Social Networking Sites (and 10 apps). Retrieved from http://www.dreamgrow.com/top-15-most-popular-social-networking-sites/

Merriam-Webster. Dictionary. Retrieved from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/social%20media

Digital Citizenship

The students in our classrooms today are digital natives, growing up and instinctively understanding digital technology (NetRef, 2016). Teachers are not only challenged with teaching these students how to use technology effectively, but also teach them the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior to become good digital citizens. It is our job to guide students using the technologies in a way that preserves their growth and ability to make mistakes without hurting themselves in the long run. Teaching students to be  aware and courteous of others online as well as having a critical eye/ear for what they are reading/viewing/hearing can be as difficult as any content subject.

I recently read an article that discusses how to foster digital citizenship and favored the description of digital fingerprints (Lynch, 2016), as opposed to a digital footprint, being left behind when online. According to Lynch, it is easy to leave traces of where you have been without even realizing it. A good rule of thumb to teach is that they shouldn’t post anything that they wouldn’t say to a stranger. When you are online you are shaping your reputation and sometimes it is not you who is doing the shaping.

Having a voice is important to many, especially to students. There are many places online where students can have their voice heard, such as on social media sites. The problem with that is we tend to surround ourselves with like-minded people and can sometimes think as one. A way that this can happen in a negatively is bullying or online shaming. It can be a huge problem for students (and adults), but it can also quickly get out of control. Here is an example of what happened when an adult used Twitter as a way to have a voice and in turn it destroyed her career: 

It is important to us to teach the problems of online use and promote good digital citizenship. It is also important to remember to model it ourselves.

How do you promote digital citizenship in your classroom?


References:

Lynch, Matthew. (2016, November 7). Fostering Responsible Digital Citizenship. Retrieved from http://www.thetechedvocate.org/fostering-responsible-digital-citizenship/

NetRef. (2016, April 4). White Paper – Digital Natives: Citizens of a Changing World. Retrieved from https://www.net-ref.com/white-paper-fostering-digital-citizenship-in-the-classroom/

Social Bookmarking Tutorials

What is social bookmarking? You may be thinking that you know what a bookmark is and how to use them, but wondering what’s the purpose of social bookmarking. According to Wikipedia, social bookmarking is a centralized online service which allows users to add, annotate, edit, and share bookmarks of web documents. In other words, your browser can hold bookmarks on your computer, but social bookmarking is being able to access your bookmarks from any computer or browser. You can share with colleagues and/or students and also access other people’s bookmarks. There are many social bookmarking sites out there, below are some tutorials on select ones. Please share your favorite using the Contact page and we will add it to the list.

If you have a social bookmarking site, it can be added to the list. We’d love to see where you get your information. Symbaloo is visually pleasing to me.

Social Bookmarking?

What is social bookmarking? It is an online service that allows one to save links, annotate them with unique keywords or “tags” to organize and share them with the world (Richardson, 2010). All the tags/keywords allow us to see how other teachers interpret a resource. This collaborative tagging has created a system or folksonomy, where the user is determining the vocabulary for a particular community (Wikipedia). You can use it to create a group of sites for your classroom, a specific subject or to keep up with teaching trends.

There are many social bookmarking website out there and Wikipedia has a nice list available. I chose to try out 4 social bookmarking sites to help me decide which one I liked best. Delicious and Google were very simple and straightforward. If I were in a classroom, I would probably use Diigo for its versatility. You can highlight or create a sticky note right on the site which is great for students. However, I chose to go with Symbaloo because it was visually pleasing and I happen to be a visual learner. Here are my Symbaloo bookmarks:
https://edu.symbaloo.com/mix/christineblanos

Do you have a preference? Choose your favorite in the poll below. Also, please share a link to your social bookmarking site if you have one and how you use it in the classroom.


References:

Richardson, Will. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Tools for Classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.

Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_bookmarking and  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_bookmarking_websites

Technology Standards

Technology is all around us. As teachers, we all have our own opinions about how much of it should be allowed in the classroom. Even Nicholas Carr, in his book The Shallows, discusses how the Internet is rerouting our neural pathways, asking “Is Google making us stupid?” The amount of exposure to screens has been widely debated, however it was just recently announced that the American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its guidelines of media for young kids and school-aged children. Technology is here and changing (including us) at a rapid pace.

The fact is we, as teachers, cannot escape that our students are growing up in a world where technology has always existed. These “digital natives” are used to having access to technology and the reality is their future jobs are going to depend on it (Schrum and Levin, 2009). It is our job (one of many) to make sure they can navigate and communicate in a way that is responsible.

I have embraced technology, and have used it in my classroom since the mid- to late 90s. I created a computer lab in my first classroom and even started an educational discussion website, before their were blogs. There were no technology standards when I taught, I just did it. Now there are guidelines for teachers to help them incorporate technology in their classrooms. In addition to international standards, most of the 50 states have their own technology standards and links can be found here: Technology Standards.

I am very interested in hearing your story of how you use technology in your classroom. There are so many resources out there from blogs, YouTube videos, podcasts, etc. What resources do you utilize?

Join the conversation by sharing, commenting or asking questions!


References:

American Academy of Pediatrics (2016, October). Media and the Young Minds. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/10/19/peds.2016-2591

Carr, N. G. (2010). The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains. New York: W.W. Norton.

Schrum, Lynne and Levin, Barbara B. (2009). Leading 21st Century Schools. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.