Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Really. I did not expect to spend what amounted to most of an afternoon putting together a five-minute video. But once I shot the video clips and the photos this morning, I could not keep myself away.

Because... it is fun.

I'm talking about making a movie with iMovie on the iPad. I've done a couple of videos with MovieMaker and have enjoyed that, too, which I mention just so that our associate principal doesn't think I've been converted totally to an Apple person.

The iMovie app is pretty intuitive, and my questions were mostly answered in a very helpful "help" section. What took me the longest, even though I had used iMove once before, was getting the hang of dragging the yellow circles to get fine control in my editing. I think I've got it now.

There's one of my "10 things" summer homework for teachers at my school, crossed off the list!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Explain Everything

I received a forwarded e-mail with a question about Evernote, simply because I am someone who uses Evernote, and I have researched it a bit for PD demo at our school. I don't exactly know all the ins and outs, especially with the iPad, so I looked online for the answer. The question was about sharing a link for a note, which apparently one can do on a computer but not on the iPad, where the sharing option is limited to notebooks.

So then, because one of our "assignments" this summer is to make a demonstration video with either the Explain Everything or Show Me app, I decided to get in some of my practice on the iPad by showing in a visual format what I had just learned about sharing notebooks .

I had been to a short demonstration of Explain Everything, but even if I had not, I think I still could have figured out how to use it, because it's pretty intuitive. The longest part of the process was probably taking my screenshots, but once I had my camera roll ready to go, it was a fairly quick job to pull up a shot for each slide, record and draw. The actual processing of the video took some minutes, a good time for (as suggested by the EE people) a "screen break."

I like it! Now I'll be thinking about how I can apply this application to my curriculum.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Nothing to facilitate learning like agreeing to "bone up" to present the intermediate version of an app that I've been using in "beginner" fashion. But the more I learn about Evernote, the more I like it.

Mostly I just type lots of notes -- short and long -- things I want to remember and have accessible from any device. Books and movies people recommend. Notes about students to have on hand if I talk to parents. Agenda items for meetings. I haven't been interested in saving website articles that way, because I find Diigo to work quite well for the volume of links I save.

But with the iPad and the ability to take photos and record audio, more possibilities are opened up. I'm pretty impressed at how well the search function works, even finding words within photos of text or of my worst handwriting. Perhaps I will be finding new uses for Evernote.

Decisions, decisions

As we move from PC to iPad in our school, I have some things to figure out in terms of organization. I've been using One Note for all of my meetings and Evernote for just about every other note I type. I think there's a way to keep using One Note, and to sync it to all my devices. Should I learn that, or just stick everything in Evernote now?

We will be storing in the cloud, and Dropbox is the place that's been hyped around here so far. But Google just came out with Google Drive, and we're doing lots more Google. Would it be simpler to keep it in the family, so to speak?

I'll be making decisions about calendars. We have recently added a school Google calendar, and that's where my class calendars will go in the fall. If I keep the separate one I have in my personal (already existing) account, will I risk double-booking myself? I've already done that once, and we've barely begun. It's easy to switch from one calendar to another, but will I remember to do that? Maybe it's just as well to keep everything in one place.

It's going to be an interesting year, on many levels.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Moodle rubrics

I have mentioned before that I am glad to see the introduction of rubrics to our Moodle experience. I am experimenting now with a couple of sets of essay papers.

I have had to learn some of the quirks. It is not possible to edit a rubric once it has been attached to an assignment. So, if there is a mistake, take it off the assignment first before trying to make changes.

Unfortunately, our version only offers two rubric choices, and neither fits what I really want. I am using a "checklist" type, and it requires me to check many boxes, which can get tedious. I would like to set it up so that only the highest applicable box needs to be checked.

Because of that tedium, I tried using the iPad, figuring it would be faster to just tap. The problem there was getting from the rubric to the paper and back efficiently. There might be a way, but I don't know it since the iPad experience is still fairly new for me. I tried using both the iPad and my PC at the same time, but didn't work, either.

So, back to the computer. After about ten papers, I think this method is at least as good as what I had been doing before, copying the grading criteria to each grading box and entering points for each one. I'm just not sure yet if it's better.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

iPad vs. PC

We are transitioning from tablet PC's to iPads in our school, so for the time being I have one of each to work with. I've been trying to get acquainted with the iOS realm, but I still go back to the laptop for some things. Here are my thoughts of the day:

Why I like my iPad:

It's lighter and easier to carry around.
The screen resolution shows off my photos nicely.
I can take photos (other than of me).
It's easier to scroll up and down on the attendance screens. (Hardly a big deal, but something I do several times a day.)
Word files for quick grading in Moodle open up instantly.

Why I like my tablet PC:

Typing! Much easier to offer comments in grading on Moodle.
Full functioning of all the apps I use. (Pretty important.)
Much easier to navigate around on the web and between apps, at least so far. (I'm learning...)
The screen doesn't get smudged constantly.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Animoto rocks!

I had not used Animoto in almost three years. I've experimented with Movie Maker and Photostory, tools that allow more control, but are also more time-consuming. Coming home tired from helping out at a two-day retreat, I just wanted something quick and easy to make my photos into a video that would help students remember their experience.

Just upload the photos, pick out a song, and -- thank you very much --within a short time the result is one snazzy video. Animoto does all the work!

Friday, April 20, 2012

IPad camera

If I keep writing here, eventually, there will be much about Apple and iPad, since our school is making the switch from tablet PCs to iPads for freshmen next year, and that's where many discoveries will be, I'm sure.

I took my newly issued iPad to keep tabs on my e-mail at a school overnight retreat that I was helping to supervise. I also took my little Canon Elph to take some photos, but since I had neglected to charge the battery, it lost charge halfway through the retreat. I thought I was done with picture-taking.

And then I remembered my iPad, with the supposedly great camera. So, I took a bunch of shots with that, too, and some of them turned out very nice. Now I need to ponder how those cameras might be used for learning with those freshmen next year.

Newly noticed on Moodle

A colleague pointed out a feature that I need to explore more: "lesson," which allows for a step by step process that a student can do on her own. We have been tossing about ideas about creating lessons that could fit in a general way into the curriculum of a course to use during teacher absences. The thought is that we could create these lessons and have them available for any teacher of a particular course.

Another thing that seems to have just popped up for us is "rubric." Create a rubric for an assignment, and click, click, click, the assignment has been evaluated. Definitely worth a look. When I have used rubrics I have delivered them by e-mail or on a wiki, but this seems to be a most hassle-free way to get the information to the student.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A mini project

Frosh are doing some web research about the life and times of Jesus. They put information on a Wikispaces project page that classmates will be able to view when they present tomorrow.

This is just a little in-class exercise, but it's also a chance to practice some useful skills, so I required paraphrasing rather than copying, links to sources, and both attribution and permission for photos.

Skills in searching and getting things uploaded to the wiki also got a bit of a workout. I made two Jing screencasts to give help for some of this, and students watched them as needed. It seemed to work well as an alternative to taking class time for demonstrations. In the future I may assign watching these very brief videos as homework.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Further reflection on Today's Meet

I paid attention to the comments and questions as students typed them and to student responses, and sometimes I would interject comments of my own. Since there was not time to attend to everything yesterday, we revisited the feed today. There were a few errors that appeared, not just about what was being read yesterday, but about concepts we had already studied. I found this to be useful a way of checking on understanding. It gave me the chance to clear up a couple of misconceptions that I might not otherwise have been aware of.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Today's Meet again

I tried something else with Today's Meet today. The frosh have a quiz that I delayed until tomorrow, but I also wanted them to get some reading done in the chapter, and knew that preparing both things would be a bit of a burden. It is very rare to spend class time reading, but today that's what we did. At the same time, though, the class kept a running commentary on what they were reading: comments about what they found interesting, and questions about what they did not understand. After some beginning silliness, they got down to business and made some good observations and addressed each other's questions. I answered questions, too, when needed, and before class tomorrow I will go back to see what got missed that we need to discuss.

I asked at the end how many found the method helpful, and most of the class raised their hands. Two students voted that it was more distracting and not as helpful to read in this way.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The problem with Wikispaces

I wish I could have had a few more minutes to think this through. When I was talking about Wikispaces at the conference someone mentioned the problem of students sometimes deleting the work of others. One of my presenter partners mentioned that Google Docs was more effective in that regard, which I think is possibly true. My response was that it was good that at least all information can be recovered with earlier versions. I also mentioned that for in-class group work (where I think the problem is most likely to occur) someone can be designated the person to do the input.

I should have gone further with that. That solution will work if students are simply gathering together their own ideas. But if they are all doing research and trying to post links or upload photos or copy and paste, each student needs to have access to the page.

But here's the thing. It's one thing for a group of students to be sitting together but each doing her own thing, oblivious to what the rest of the group is doing. That's not collaboration, is it? The students need to be talking to each other. They need to be making decisions about who will find what, discussing results, commenting on each other's finds, shaping the page together. If they are talking to each other, it's not a big deal to take turns posting so as not to override others' work.Then, I think, Wikispaces will probably work okay.


Something about Voicethread captivated me when I first saw it, probably two or three years ago. But only recently have I tried to use it in the classroom. Freshmen were learning about the Trinity. I pulled a variety of images of the Trinity off the web (with links to the sources) and put them in a Voicethread slide show. Students chose an image and then recorded a comment in which they explained how the image connected to concepts they had learned in the unit.

It was a way for them to show understanding. I suppose it could have been done in a written form. But it was cool this way, and students seemed to enjoy the assignment. What I need to find out now is if anyone listened to what their classmates had recorded, since that was possible but not required.

I've got in my head another assignment, involving characters from Luke's gospel and a student choosing one and recording as though she is the character. But since there is some setup time involved and we're nearing the end of our time with Luke, that might have to wait until next year.

Friday, March 9, 2012


The first (and last, up to now) time that I attended MACUL was several years ago when our school was either about to enter or at the very beginning of our 1:1 program. The whole world of tech in education was new and the conference was overwhelming. I recall that many of us were impressed by a presenter who know oh, so much about Google! You can do that with Google? Who knew?!

In the intervening time I have done some exploring and experimenting on my own, but still found much to marvel at and to be overwhelmed by at the conference in the last two days. It's been a time to be newly motivated and to be re-energized in the teaching profession and the quest to help my students not only learn content, but learn as well the skills they will need for successful productive lives in our century.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Presenting at a conference

Just a couple of hours ago two colleagues and I presented some of our classroom activities at a conference of Michigan Association of Computer Users in learning. I'm grateful for the opportunity given to me by our associate principal (who is also one of our ed tech gurus) to take part in this adventure. Our slides can be found here. Because we are switching to iPads for the freshman class next year, I am attending sessions about apps for iPad, as well as using an iPad as my note-taking and Internet-checking device, in an attempt to get more comfortable with it. No laptop! I think that I'm getting a bit better at typing. This is officially my blog post pecked out on an iPad. In one session I was told that students are pretty good at this. I am almost ready to believe it! (But I did go back and correct a couple of typos.)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Back at it

Today I am deciding to get back at it! That is, blogging about experiences in the classroom. But since it happens to be one of my more stressful semesters, we'll see how I do.