Review and How To Socrative

So first off, so my follower(s) for the long delay between post. Since the last post: My wife gave birth to our first kids, yes kids; we then moved across the country. To top that all off, I started a new job. Originally I had been interviewing for regular classroom teaching positions. Once again, it’s all about who you know though. An old friend of mine told me of a technology trainer position that was opening up in his district. After much editing of resume and long delays with their HR department I was hired. Yes I have my dream job. So far, it’s been quite nice.

but on to the real reason why you are here. Socrative is a student response system. I remember years ago (3 years ago to be exact), my wife talking about student response clickers her school bought. The only problem is that they were difficult to use and required proprietary software. On top of that they were expensive meaning that they only had a few sets for the entire school. Socrative eliminates that problem. Using a smart mobile device or a computer browser, Socrative puts a response system into every students hand. If I were in the classroom today, I would be using this to facilitate my warm ups as I teacher can create a multiple choice, true/false, or short answer quiz and have the students take it when they walk into class. On top of that, Socrative then grades the quiz (mc or t/f, short answer you still have to grade yourself) and spits out a nice Excel spreadsheet of scores for you. The best part about this system, FREE. So take a look at a training video explaining Socrative I put together for my application to my current job.

Power On!

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Review Anki Flashcards

Anki is the concept of notecards for the 21st century. I was a big fan of Anki when the first version was released, but I had to reacquaint myself when they switched to version 2.0. With that said, now that I’ve been able to familiarize myself with the new interface I love it. I’m not alone in this affinity for Anki either.  A former college classmate, who is easily one of the top five smartest people I know said he would bow down (to Anki) and worship it! So beware, Anki flashcards may just become your new religion. What makes Anki so awesome that it verges on the edge of deification? To begin with: the flexibility of the card system and the portability.

 First off, Anki could be used as nothing more than a glorified notecard. It allows you to construct your basic card with a front and back. You can set the system to do your standard review showing the front or the back for you to correctly identify the other side.  That’s nothing special and as easily achievable with paper, rocks, wood chips and the like.

Now here’s where the beauty of Anki comes in though. This Lifehacker article suggests the best way to learn a new language is to associate new words with pictures.  The article highlighted Anki because the platform is capable of associating words with pictures.  To test this type of flashcard out, I created a deck that used pictures for Spanish verbs. Again, this might be achievable with paper, but Anki comes with the flexibility to associate a concept with a visual representation or a word-based representation.  So far, I’m sold.

The next flexible feature is the cloze cards of Anki. In working with historical facts, the cloze cards are what I would probably use most often. With the cloze system, I can create a card that says, (Robert E Lee) was a (general) for the (Confederacy). The items in the parenthesis are essentially wildcards. When Anki displays the card, one of those wildcards will be missing and waiting to be filled in by the studious student. 

The other nice feature is the field system that was implemented with version 2.0.  This new field system is what stymied me the most, but now is an awesome feature.  With this feature I can create fields that will be used a templates to help populate other cards. For example, my wife, who is an English teacher, would like to spend less time and effort grading vocabulary and give students more effective and differentiated practice time with new words. With Anki I created a card template that contained the word, definition, synonym, antonym, etymology, and a sentence. When reviewing, the card will display the definition, synonym, antonym, etymology, or the sentence at intervals with the reviewer connecting the vocabulary word to all six fields.  My wife can’t wait to see what happens when she gets to stop handing out (and grading) vocabulary worksheets and instead focus on study aids such as Anki flashcards.

Oh yes, even with all that flexibility, there is even more awesomeness to Anki. With Anki, you can sync your decks to a Smart Mobile Device, your desktop, or the web, giving students almost no excuse not to be able to study. The reason why I say ‘almost’ is my one detraction against Anki. While the app is free on Android, it is unreasonably priced at $25 for iOS devices. The ability to use it on the web or a desktop should be able to mitigate the high pricing for Apple fans.

Essentially, teachers can use Anki to create decks that students can then import into their profile to use to study on the device (priced accordingly) of their choice or availability. On the educational theory side, Anki uses spaced repetition in order for the reviewer to learn the content. When answering a card, at the bottom there are choices the reviewer can select that correlates with how easily you were able to get the answer. The variable on when you will see that card again is dependent on your response. For example, when it is first seen a card will have the options of; Hard:1 minute, Good:10 minutes, Easy:1 day. As you study more and more, the timing will be space out farther. This system allows the student to focus on the things that they need to study but keeps the material they know around for a random pop in.

On a final note, I think the implementation of Anki would take some time. The user interface for card creation in version 2.0 took me some time to learn, and I consider myself rather savvy at deciphering convoluted interfaces. I believe though with proper training, this tool could be a huge asset in any curriculum in a school.  It’s definitely a plus, but also something to develop over the Summer to be ready to go with implementation during the school year.

Power On!

Review MyScript Calculator

Review MyScript Calculator

Alright this one goes out to all my math friends in the audience (maybe 2 people). It’s rough to watch students today who can’t do basic math problems like 10×10, but this app is for more advanced math. MyScript calculator is a free (a word I like to hear the most) app that can do advanced (or what is advanced to me) math functions. Install this on any smart mobile device (smd) running Android or iOs, and give students a replacement TI calculator (of course I still haven’t been able to find a suitable replacement for the TI Drug Wars game). Using your finger or a stylus, the app will use hand writing recognition to write out the formula and solve it. Any math student should have this handy app installed on their smd.

SUPPORTED OPERATORS
Basic operations: +, -, x, ÷, +/-, 1/x
Misc. Operations: %, √, x!, |x|
Powers/Exponentials: ℯx, xy , x2
Brackets: ( )
Trigonometry: cos, sin, tan
Inverse trigonometry: acos, asin, atan
Logarithms: ln , log
Constants: π, e, phi.

Power On!

Review and How to QR Codes

Review

For this post we are getting both a review and tutorial on QR codes. At least I’m going to share how I have implemented them in my classroom recently. QR codes began as a tracking device for auto manufacture. With the rise of smart mobile device (smartphones, iPod Touch, iPad, other tablets)(SMD), they can be utilized in the educational setting. The code allows you to link a website, 160 characters of text, phone number, SMS, or contact information on a scan able item.

I’ve used QR codes once and I have another lesson set up to use them again soon. So far I’ve implemented them gallery walk style. When we were studying World War I propaganda, I found the posters I wanted the students to study then created a Google site with those posters. I then created a QR code that sent the students to the link to look at the posters individually. This proved beneficial for me as my printer doesn’t have color ink, color being critical for propaganda. In addition, instead of creating a PowerPoint where every student had to go at the same pace it allowed the students to go at their own pace.  They could have just visited the website, but the QR code isolated each piece of propaganda as a small chuck. This system also opens up differentiated instruction possibilities. For instance, when reading a document you can put a code on for students that could provide different scaffolding tools like word definition. You can specify to students what codes they need to scan or what codes that they don’t need to do. The next lesson I’m using QR codes with will be examining the effect of World War I on African American life in the U.S. For this lesson, instead of creating a site, I’ve linked to codes to other sites and the students have to take notes and report back. This negates the need for a computer lab, but still allows students to access outside material using their smart mobile device.

The students seem very receptive to the process. They liked the ability to get up, walk around and go at their own pace. For the few students who didn’t have an SMD, they were able to share with another student who did have one and still accomplish the task.

The process is rather simple. There are several QR code generating sites. I use www.qrcode.kaywa.com to generate mine. This site gives you the option to create either free static codes, so once they are created the code can’t be altered. You can also do 5 free dynamic codes, or more with a paid monthly subscription. Dynamic codes give you the ability to alter the destination of the code. They also give you the ability for analytics, but these are mostly geared towards businesses.

There are numerous other ways codes can be utilized. I’ve read of teachers putting them on worksheets to get the answers for previous homework assignments. I’ve seen a Periodic Table of QR codes. And this website has even more ideas.

How To

Step 1: Decide what you want to codify.

Step 2: Go to www.qrcode.kaywa.com

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Step 3: Create the code.

Step 4: Right click on the code and select copy

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Step 5: Insert QR code into Word document and print

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Step 6: Post and have fun

Power On!

Review of Adobe Acrobat Standard X

So the application I loved using the most so far this year is Adobe Acrobat Standard X, and I’m sure the environment has loved it also. While I feel I have just scratched the surface of what it can do, it has made many things easier for myself.

So the first reason I would recommend using Adobe Acrobat Standard Software is its ability to edit PDFs. Often times, lesson plans are stored in PDF form as this is a more universal file type. The ability to at least open up and read a PDF is free if the person has Adobe Reader. Adobe Standard allows you to insert, extract, or delete pages from a PDF document. There have often been times when I find a lesson online and don’t want X pages from it. Adobe Acrobat gives me the ability to take those out of the file all together.

Another helpful tool with having a full version of Acrobat Standard is the ability to convert PDFs to word documents. Converting them to Word is useful as it allows you to edit specific parts of a document. For example, in my history classes I often use PDF documents from academic journals or archived documents. In a couple of my classes I have students with sight problems. With Adobe Standard, I can covert the document into a Word file and have the ability to increase the font so they are able to read it. Now while the ability to convert it to Word and edit is great, the process isn’t completely clean and neat. The conversion process sometimes breaks the document into odd sections or headers with odd breaks. If the document uses an increased font size at the beginning of paragraph (Illustrated Bible style), that one letter gets converted into an image instead of text. I would recommend if you do convert a document, save about 15-20 minutes to go through it to make sure it is formatted correctly.

My absolute favorite thing about having Adobe Standard is the ability to do forms. For this past semester my paper consumption has gone down drastically because of Adobe Forms. Using this in conjunction with Engrade, the online electronic grade book, my students complete their assignments on the computer or their personal mobile device and then turn it in electronically on Engrade. The benefit of this is that Engrade records the date and time the assignment was submitted. I no longer have to worry about students loosing papers or having to keep track of papers myself. The benefit of using Adobe Forms instead of just a usual Word document is that you can secure a form to prevent it from printing. I find this useful as students would try to print it off to turn it in, circumventing the timestamp on Engrade. There were some growing pains. First, students need to download the PDF to their computer first. Often students would open the document in their browser, complete the assignment in the browser and then try to save it. If done this way, the computer saves a blank document. Second, and I think this was exacerbated with my group of apathetic students in regards to reading directions, students had problems with the turn in function on Engrade. This really isn’t a complicated thing though and most students should be able to accomplish this. Again, plan to spend time practicing the process.  Last, and this one was on me, when securing the document so it can’t print, you need to go through a couple of steps to make sure it can be filled in and saved.

Overall I would highly endorse using Adobe Acrobat Standard. The student teacher edition is available for $119. My paper consumption has gone significantly down. My headaches of dealing with students turning in work, specifically late work, have decreased.  The students can use any device (Mac or PC) to complete work, so “I lost the paper” excuses don’t work.  Every kid with a smart phone, iPod Touch, iPad, laptop, or desktop computer can complete their work on their own device.

 

Power On!