Month: September 2014

Tech Tip Tuesday: Text Your Students or Parents with Remind

remindby Kristie Burk

Here’s your first assignment for the year… do you want to improve communication with students and parents?

Let’s face it – students don’t use email. In fact, their parents don’t really use email as much anymore, either. Parents and students alike are more likely to get a text message than an email message. Yet, teachers understandably do not want to send students text messages that will allow students to see their mobile numbers, or worse, to send back inappropriate responses.

Remind solves these problems. The concept is simple. Teachers register their mobile number on the website and create a class for free. Students (and parents) then subscribe to the class either through email, a link, or a text message.

Once the students and the teachers are linked, teachers can send out text messages to the students instantly or they can schedule future messages. Remind hides BOTH the teachers’ phone numbers and the students’ phone numbers from each other. The messages are one way; students cannot reply to the message or send messages to the phone number that appears.

My son’s fifth grade teacher at Shamona Creek, Mrs. Chalfont, uses Remind to text the parents about upcoming tests and quizzes.  I use Remind to text my blended teachers to let them know if I’m in their building that day.

Remind can become an extremely valuable tool; it’s really useful for all educators!

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Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines for Teachers

by Kristie Burk

Teachers will often ask me about the legal issues of putting material online. Can you post digital copies of the students’ textbooks? If you own a DVD, can you put it online for your students to view? Can you post several paintings by an artist? A few minutes of a song from a jazz CD?

Here is a great reference chart for anyone who is unsure about what falls under the category of “fair use” online:

Food for Thought Friday: Should Your Classroom Be Colorful?

information systems by striatic, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  striatic 

On Food for Thought Fridays, we bring you articles and ideas to spark conversations about education (not just technology related). 

by Kristie Burk

When I visit my youngest son’s kindergarten classroom, it is adorned with colorful posters, letters of the alphabet, and children’s paintings.  Most elementary classrooms are similar. That is why I read with interest an article in the New York Times called “Rethinking the Colorful Kindergarten Classroom.” Based on a study done by Carnegie Mellon University, researchers found that a well-decorated classroom could actually harm rather than help the students.

[The study] found that when kindergarteners were taught in a highly decorated classroom, they were more distracted, their gazes more likely to wander off task, and their test scores lower than when they were taught in a room that was comparatively spartan. – Jan Hoffman

In the study, kindergarteners were taught in a well-decorated classroom or an unadorned one. Researchers recorded the children to monitor their gazes; they found that in a decorated classroom “the visuals competed with the teacher for their attention. The children spent far more time off-task in the decorated classroom than in the plain one, and their test scores were also lower.”

The researchers did add that as students get older, they may be less distracted from visual stimulation on the walls.

What do you think? Are our classrooms over-decorated? Write your comments below or tweet using #foodforthoughtfri @kristielburk.

7 Reasons to Use Google Docs for Research

Today’s blog is written by Michelle Nass, Downingtown West Librarian

There are so many awesome places to find breakdowns and infographics that help us improve our use of technology and help nudge our students towards more effective and efficient research.  While scrolling through my Pinterest page, I came across this great blog by Michael Fricano on four reasons why you should consider using Google Docs with your students in your research, and thought it might be useful especially in light of our school’s new Google accounts.  It is well worth the short time to scan over it or read it, in my opinion.

In short, did you know that:

1)      In Docs, under “tools” there is a “research” tab that will open a research sidebar that allows students to search and filter by scholar, images, etc.  They can cite directly from here in APA or MLA format, hyperlink their discussion, pull images directly over, etc.  It is a really powerful tool that will allow the students to be more metacognitive as they work (yes, I used metacognitive… I feel like I’m writing a grad paper).

2)      Under “add-ons” there are LOTS of great, helpful add-ons for writing, math, charting, etc.  The blogger and I both recommend that the students use the highlighting add-on right away.  It allows them to highlight and then gather the highlighted text in a separate doc as they are working on a larger research project, which allows them to think through and organize their work more effectively.

3)      The comment tool—have the students share their docs with you rather than handing in various drafts.  Use the comment tool to help them edit their work.  They can use the comment tool to annotate their notes to show their thinking and come back to it later.

4)      Sharing—the students can share documents with you or their group mates and edit simultaneously, or even use the “chat” function to talk about their work as they do it if they are editing in real-time in separate locations.

5)      Revision History—tracks every change a student makes and time stamps it.  Want to check when a student did the work or how many revisions he/she made?  Here you go.

6)      Connections—their Google Docs will connect with their EasyBib accounts (don’t know about these?  Ask me!) and Schoology so that they will soon be able to submit documents directly from their Google accounts.

7.) Saving—finally, Google Docs save as you go.  For those of you who might have Internet issues or if your students sometimes struggle with the flash drive that doesn’t work or got lost, or if you have students who do not have Word at home and come in with that strange file that you need to figure out how to convert, this feature solves those problems.

Google Docs for research is another great way to collaborate with your school librarian in doing research!  Talk to your school librarian—I know that I would love to work with you and our students on this if you’re interested in adding this collaborative and engaging angle to your students’ research projects.