Sunday, February 26, 2012

Software for the Teacher

We recently spent time working with the software programs Microsoft Word, Inspiration, and Microsoft Publisher. Our goal in working with these programs was to use them in ways that could be applied to the classroom. Through the use of Microsoft Word I created a quiz, a flyer, and a newsletter that could be used in a school setting. I also used inspiration to create graphic organizer that could be used as a teaching tool. The effective use of these programs can help a teacher create effective school-related tools in an efficient manner.

Being an aspiring teacher, learning how to use Microsoft Word, Inspiration, and Microsoft Publisher was a valuable experience. By gaining a deeper understanding of these three programs, I will be able to expand the types of documents and tools that I have at my disposal in my classroom. Having a comfort level with these programs will also save me time in my first first few years of teaching, when I will be creating many of my classroom tools.

Of the programs used, I believe that Microsoft Word will be the most helpful. While Inspiration and Publisher have a nice list of features, Word has the greatest level of versatility and applicability to the classroom. It can be used to create all kinds of different documents. The list of features in the program allows for the documents to be as plain or as decorative as the person making the document wants. Word is excellent for creating everything from short memos to multi-page newsletters. It for the creation of many different documents through one program, instead of having learn a variety of different programs.

I can already think of many ways that these programs will help me as a teacher. These include:

  • Well-organized tests created on Word will make be easy to take and to grade
  • Homework assignments and class handouts can also be quickly and easily created using words
  • Graphic organizers created on Inspiration will serve as effective visual teaching tools
  • Graphic organizers from Inspiration with words blanked out can be used as assessment tools
  • Group work/note taking tools that can be distributed to students can be created using Inspiration
  • Publisher can be used to create newsletters that can be distributed to the class to keep students up to dates on assignments, tests, and other important class functions

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Inspiration, PLNs, and Social Bookmarking

Inspiration, Personal Learning Networks, and Social Bookmarking are three technological tools that can be very useful in the classroom.

The program Inspiration can be used as both an instructional tool and a productivity tool. It can be used in a verity of functions in a social studies classroom. Because of all of the functions that it can serve in the classroom, I believe that it is worth purchasing.

Examples of Instructional Tools:

  1. Create a pyramid of the ancient Egyptian social hierarchy.
  2. Create a progression chart of the succession order for president of the United States.
  3. Re-create the pyramid of the hierarchy of needs.
  4. Create a family tree for King Henry VIII.
  5. Create a chart showing the progression of United States presidents. 
Examples of Productivity Tools:
  1. Have students create a Venn diagram comparing geographical features of North American to Europe.
  2. Have students create a concept web for the branches of  the United States government. 
  3. Have students create a chart ranking the reasons for the fall of Rome. 
  4. Have students create a timeline of the American Revolution. 
  5. Have students create a flow chart of the people and events that led from World War I to World War II. 
When used as an instructional tool, Inspiration will allow the teacher to create clear and concise presentations and examples for the class. The students will like these Inspiration-generated graphics, as they present an alternative to reading to learn the material. When used as a productivity tool, it will allow for an alternative to written assignments that many students, especially those who struggle with writing, will find enjoyable. It will also improve the computer skills of students. 

Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)
Personal Learning Networks are popular tools in education. These used to consist of human resources (such as teachers)  that students could go to with questions, however, online PLNs are becoming increasingly popular. They provide ways for people with similar academic interests to collaborate with one another without even having met before. Some popular PLNs include Facebook, Twitter, and Diigo. On these websites, people can create free profiles and have the ability to post information that can be made available to everyone else who has an account on these sites. 

As a current student, I have a personal learning network that I use in my field of study. It consists of both online and offline elements. 

  • Other students at my school
  • Professors
  • Cooperating Teachers
  • Moodle
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Diigo
This PLN gives me the ability to collaborate with others on the topics of education and history. I can talk to other students that are taking the same classes or have the same major as me. I can also meet with my professors if I have questions. If I have education-specific questions, I can talk to cooperating teachers with whom I've done observation time. If these sources are not sufficient, I can go to the Internet and have a world worth of resources at my fingertips. Moodle is a source that allows me to easily communicate with other students at my school over the Internet (this can be easier than tracking down a student on campus, especially at a big school). Facebook and Twitter can direct me to pages and people that have specific information on the topic that I am looking for. Diigo gives me the ability to search through links that people have posted on the topic that I am interested in.  

Social Bookmarking
Social Bookmarking, like the other topics discussed in this article, can be an important tool in the classroom. It can be very effective in It can be used in a variety of effective ways. 

Examples of Ways to Use Social Bookmarking:
  1. Teacher can mark websites to use in a guided research project for students. 
  2. Students mark websites that pertain to the topic of study for the teacher and other students can view.
  3. Students can create an informal bibliography for projects that require some online research. 
  4. Teachers can mark websites that would be valuable to other teachers within the school or even in other schools. 
  5. Have students mark current events on news websites and discuss in class. 
There are a variety of ways that students can use Social Bookmarking for their own induividual benefit. It is an excellent tool for organizing Internet research. In a group project setting, it can also serve as an easy way for group members to share research. Students can also use the bookmarked websites of others to find information on a topic that they are researching by searching tags. Social Bookmarking sites, such as Diigo, can be a useful part of a PLN for a student. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Blogs and Googledocs

Blogging in the Classroom
As technology becomes an increasingly lager part of our society, teachers must find ways to incorporate it into the classroom. One effective technological tool for learning is the blog. Blogging (short for web logging) is a way in which students can express their thoughts and opinions to the rest of the class. It is a helpful educational tool because it allows all students to respond to teacher questions and the thoughts of their classmates in an atmosphere that is not constrained by time like a normal class period. This allows all students an equal opportunity to make their voice heard by the teacher and their peers.

Some ways in which blogs can be used in the classroom are:

  • Having students post what they learned from a homework reading assignment
  • Having students post their research findings
  • Having an open blog where students may post any information that they come upon that is relevant to the class (possibly for extra credit)

There are definite advantages and disadvantages to using technology in the classroom.

  • Internet is a forum where all students may participate and have their opinions heard
  • Informal writing (in blogs and other online posts) students will embrace blogging more than essays
  • Gives students more experience working with computers/technology
  • Gives the teacher more resources to use in lessons
  • Students may not have Internet access or own the required technology
  • Informal writing habits may be carried into formal writing
  • Technology that is not functioning properly can ruin a lesson

Googledocs Word Processor

Googledocs Word Processor is a free word processor that can be used by anyone that has a Google account. It makes use of cloud computing, making documents available anywhere you can access your account. It contains many of the features that other popular word processors (such as Microsoft Word) have. Documents that are created on Googledocs may also be downloaded in many different forms (such as Word and PDF files) ans therefore can be saved to an individual computer.

One of the most popular features that Googledocs Word Processor possesses is the ability for collaborative work. Users may send Googledocs files that they are working on to other Google users. The other user may then edit or add too that document. This feature creates many new possibilities for group projects, as group members may work cooperatively without having to meet in person.

It is inevitable that a word processor that is gaining the popularity that Googledocs is will be compared to other popular word processors, most notably Microsoft Word. Listed below are some advantages and disadvantages of choosing Googledocs over Microsoft Word:

  • You can access your documents anywhere you can access your Google account. No need to carry around your laptop or flash drive
  • Allows for group work without the group having to meet
  • Continuous auto-save means you'll never lose your work
  • Works with any operating system
  • No need to buy new upgrades
  • Can have formatting issues when being converted to a Word file
  • The list of features is not as extensive as Word
  • Requires Internet access to use
  • Certain system requirements for Cloud Connect

Wednesday, February 1, 2012