Tuesday, December 27, 2011

OrganizationTool-Pearl Trees

Now that you know a little about the equipment  I am using in my classroom, let's look closer at some of the tools that I use on my computer. These aren't necessarily tools that I use with my students (some are), but they are tools that I use to organize my teaching life. It's comforting to feel the calm of having everything in its place. The first tool I'd like to talk about is a new one for me. It's called Pearltrees. It's a unique and visually appealing way to organize your bookmarks. Now, if you are a web tool pack-rat like myself, you've learned by now that saving all of your bookmarks on your browser toolbar is completely pointless. Personally, I use Diigo to organize the steady stream of websites that inhabit my computer screen everyday, but Pearltrees offers an alternative solution to the chaos.

With Pearltrees, you are able to create a "bookmark web" if you need to group your websites according to different groups within categories. For example, right now I am building a Pearltree to help consolidate and organize different math websites according to which Everyday Math unit they belong in. So, I have a "Pearltree" called, "Everyday Math". Connected to that "Pearltree" are other Pearltrees named according to their unit number. If you click on one of those pearltrees, you'll find a bunch of "pearls." "Pearls" are actual links to websites. Confused? I've embedded some Pearltrees that I've been working on below. Also, watch the videos below my Pealrtree for an overview of the service provided.

chriscolemangsb and Pearltrees videos / Reading / Everyday Math in Chris Coleman GSB (chriscolemangsb)

With Pearltrees, it is also very easy to embed, share, and collaborate. Once I finish creating this "Everyday Math Pealrtree" I will share it with my colleagues, and hopefully they will be able to add some resources that they are using.

It seems like there are a million different ways to organize your favorite websites. What's your favorite?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The difference between men and boys...

     ...is the price of their toys. I've got some pretty good "toys" in my classroom. Some of them are a little old, but they get the job done for my kids. Here's a list of the technology that lives in Room 176.

  • 15 IBook G4s
    • It's entirely possible that there are little hamsters running around in these laptops, but they are running OS Leopard, so they make things happen. Our biggest issue at the moment is batteries that don't hold a charge. I was able to get a hold of a bunch of extra plugs though, so kids can plug in at the back of the room when their battery fades (it gets a little crwoded back there though). Don't think for one minute that I am complaining about a 1:1 laptop classroom. I am digitally blessed.
  • InFocus Digital Projector
    • Last year it was on a rolling cart (not good for the old SMART Board), but thanks to our amazing Tech Coordinator, she's mounted in the ceiling, fixed forever.
  • SMART Board
    • Inherited from a teacher who had it mounted on on wheels, and hated the fact that kids kept bumping and disorienting the device. After some cajoling, I was able to persuade our custodians to mount it in the center of my whiteboard.
    • I need some formal training with this device. I'm completely self taught, but I subscribe to a couple Whiteboard Blogs, and those people are truly gifted. There are wealth of resources out there that I have not even begun to explore.
  • Ipevo Document Camera

    • 21st Century Overhead Projector
    • I'm sure there are better document cameras out there, but this one does everything I ask it to do. I use it constantly for Screencasts, and it's very easy for the kids to use. They loved taking pictures with it for our leaf identification unit.
  • Ipod 4th Generation
    • This was a special treat this year for some of our faculty. It only took me four days to crack the glass. It was resting quietly in my shirt pocket, then I bent over to tie my shoe in the parking lot and...crack. It still works, but it's not very pretty.
    • After having this device for a couple months now, I want more of them. Having just one is not enough, but the camera has proven to be very useful, and their are some spelling apps that I use for some of my struggling spellers. Perhaps a separate post just on the Ipod is in order.
  • MacBook
    • Love my MacBook! Again, it gets the job done. There will always be something better out there, but as a public school teacher, I understand that the next big thing is not always a realistic option. I'm fine with that.
     That's the nuts and bolts of what I have in my room. Rumor has it there is an Ipad headed my way for next year. So now you know what I'm working with. Does this look like your classroom? What kind of "toys" do you have? Now it's time to start talking about how we use these little gems to benefit the learning in our classrooms. Best wishes to you and yours during this holiday season!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Trying to be Better

    This is a tough time of year to be a Elementary School teacher. The Holidays are such a huge source of distraction and anxiety for children this age. I'm trying to be a better "Holiday Teacher." Sometimes I have a little academic tunnel vision, and forget what time of year it is. One of my colleagues made fun of me last year because her kids were decorating Gingerbread Houses at the end of the day, and my kids were still plowing through our math curriculum. This also happened to be on the last day of school before our Holiday Break. Well, this year will be different...sort of. Here is a site that my kids will be using during the last week of school...if they finish their homework.

Here are some examples of what this program is capable of. The angry, banana-throwing elf is my own creation, and the other two are Gingerbread Men already on the site that kids can customize.

     Because I am a scrooge of a teacher, my students will have writing assignment that goes along with this experience. They will have to write directions for their Kindergarten Reading Buddies on how to use the site. They will be reading the directions, but the Buddies will have to follow them to the "T." We're working on details and sequencing. We'll see how it goes, and maybe I will post some of their creations.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lucky to be in Maine

     Despite the various challenges that come with our drastic changes in seasons, Maine is a wonderful place to live...especially for a teacher who loves to teach with technology. We are blessed to be a part of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI). From their website:

"The Maine Learning Technology Initiative made Maine the first state to seize the potential of technology to transform teaching and learning in classrooms statewide; first with a plan to equip all students and teachers in grades 7 to 12 with personal learning technology statewide; first to equip every 7th and 8th grade student and 7th through 12th grade teacher statewide with personal access to learning technology; first to empower every 7th through 12th grade teacher in every school statewide with professional development and support to fully tap the potential of computers and the Internet; and first to provide the option of home Internet access to every 7th and 8th grade student in every school statewide."

    Thanks to former Governor Angus King, Maine was a pioneer in implementing technology advancements in the classroom. It is this spirit of remaining "cutting edge" that seems to inspire many teachers in the state. After all, we are home to one of the most well known Educational Technology Bloggers in the country - Richard Byrne of Free Technology for Teachers. Since it's inception, the MLTI has reached beyond its original 7th-12 grade parameters, and entered every grade in most public schools.
     In my classroom, I am lucky enough to have a 1:1 laptop set up. They are pretty old Apple Ibooks, but those little workhorse computers get the job done, and trust me, we put them through their paces. So that's where I'm coming from. I have to keep my mind on that as I dole out advice on implementing technology in your classroom, that you may not have the same computing environment that I have. That's OK though. There is no profession more flexible, adaptable and resourceful than a teacher. MacGyver ain't got nothin' on me.