Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Google Doc Add-on's you should be using

What happens when you give Barry Bonds even more steroids? He hits more homeruns. What happens when you install Nitrous-Oxide into a NASCAR? It goes even faster. Google Docs is a powerful beast. But what happens when you add "add-ons" to it? It becomes even more powerful. Even more dynamic. Even more Efficient. If you are using Google Docs and feel comfortable with it, perhaps you need to start using some of the "add-ons" that Google Drive offers. Here's a look at some that I use. 
EasyBib: an easy way to generate citations and bibliographies through Google Drive. Supports Chicago style, APA, and MLA. 
Thesaurus: Sick of always using the same words? Well, activate the Thesaurus and spice up your writing! 
Lucidchart: Quickly create and insert mind maps, flow charts, and other diagrams into your google doc. 
TrackChanges: A great tool for teachers. This add-on allows you to track and approve changes to your documents. 
HighlightingTools: provides you with highlighting tools, grouping tools and selecting tools for review and learning. 
MindMeister: Turn any bullett list into a visually appealing mind map. 
Kaizena: give feedback with your voice and insert it into google docs. Great way to provide feedback for your students. 
Messenger: allows discussion and collaboration while working on a google document. 
ProWritingAid: Check and improve your writing by checking for consistency, plagiarism, acronyms, reduncancies, cliches, grammar mistakes and more.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Big Week at Sanford

Hazel Caroline Klumper
10 lbs. 11 oz.
March 11, 2014

It’s not everyday that you wake up to a life changing moment. On March 11th, Abby and I headed to Sanford to welcome our third child into this world. It was a scheduled C Section, due to size of the baby, so we knew that Tuesday was going to be the day. It’s a little odd having a scheduled C section, if you think about it. Normally, as the due date nears, anxiety and wondering grows as all involved anticipate and wait for the water to break or the contractions to start. However, with a scheduled C Section, it’s almost like you just wake up, get ready, and head to the store to pick up your baby. Easy as that. (Well, easy for me, maybe, being that I’m a guy.)  We checked in at the hospital and got situated. Surgery was scheduled for high noon, so as the minutes ticked by and the operating time neared, I got more and more nervous. I couldn’t sit still, knowing that we were just minutes away from opening up that enormous stomach and bringing a tiny alien-like human into the world.
I was shown into the operating room and found my seat next to Abby as the surgeon fired up the plasma cutter. Once the head had emerged from the stomach, I was allowed to stand up and watch the rest. My eyes opened and didn’t blink for minutes as I saw this grey, slimy creature flop out and instantly, I thought, “I just witnessed a miracle.” Soon, her pterodactyl-like screams filled the room and our eyes filled with tears. We loved her instantly.
As I stood there, holding her, just minutes into her life, the emotions were just NASCAR-ing through my body. I couldn’t help but think about the awesome responsibility of being a parent and raising a child in this world, being there at the beginning of the timeline of her life, thinking about what the future holds for her. What will she be like? What will she look like? Will she be a good student? Will she be nice? What will life through at her and how will she handle it?  It is all just very surreal holding a human on the day they were born.
Someday, this baby girl will get older and go to school, just like thousands of others. Parents will send their precious treasure to a building and hope they will be taken care of, protected, watched out for. We don’t just have a room full of students. We are responsible for taking care of peoples’ children and teaching them how to learn, create, and discover. Parents send us their most prized possessions and it is our job to build relationships with them, to be there for them, to care for them.  
What’s it like having a baby in the technology age? Well, thanks to the Internet, all who wanted could join us as I documented the day with Twitter, providing updates, news and pictures throughout the day. I think it was a cool way for people to be with us without actually being with us. I know my daughter enjoyed following the updates at her school as she waited for her baby sister to be born.  

The week has been a good one as we have been hanging out at Sanford with the baby, enjoying lazy afternoons and the delicious food of the Bistro. It is nice to slow down, enjoy the newness of life and regain perspective of what is truly important.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Future Classroom: Yes, please.

This weekend, as I was browsing the internet and doing some Techno.ED research, I came across this video posted by one of my "friends" in Google+.  It is a video of a future classroom, a classroom that utilizes technology in an unbelievable way. I was salivating watching the video, mind racing at all the possibilities and opportunities technology like this would provide and the dynamic learning environments we could create. Notice that the students can call up their Google Drive account into their hologram in an instant and start writing/working. Though classrooms like this are a ways away, the technology here. It has been for awhile. This is the future of education. Accept it.  Own it. Gone are the days of running off hundreds of copies, or using the overhead projector, or failing to engage least they should be. We have the unbelievably good fortune to be living and teaching in 2014. We have so many more weapons in our teaching arsenal than educators did 20 years ago, 10 years ago for that matter.  The change freight train that is technology in education is barreling towards us. Embrace the change. Use it. Take a look at the world. It is not slowing down. It is speeding up. Technology is not going away. This is the world we live in now. We do not want to be left behind or run over. We want to be leaders.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Engage and Enlighten your students with the National Archives

The National Archives is a great site for research, interest, engagement, learning, and discovery. Let's get right to it: The National Archives is exactly that, a collection of archives from all over the board in terms of topics, events, etc. The National Archives has some cool features that would engage your students, bringing them back to the past. The National Archives has tons of primary sources to search through and look at. In addition to a plethora of resources and documents, the National archives has other features: Collection, Backtrack, Pathways, Search, and Create. Let's break them down:
*Collection: this feature offers your students the chance to put together a "collection" of things they find pertaining to a certain topic. 
*Backtrack: This feature allows your students to go backwards from where they came from. As you click on new material, you spiral around the archives, and this feature allows you to find your way back to what you have already seen. 
*Pathways: This is a neat feature that challenges your students to find the pathway from one item to the next, staying within a certain topic. For example: If you do a path way on the Civil War, you might start with a picture of Lincoln in the middle, then hundreds of other options scattered around him. The task is to find another item that relates to the item in the middle. I worked on the Civil War pathway for a while. It's quite challenging!
*Search: This allows you to do a basic search for material.
*Create: This option allows you to create a poster or a movie with the national archives. A cool feature to the site. 

I encourage you to check out the National Archives and browse around for a while. Perhaps you will find something or an idea you could use in your classroom. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Timeline Maker: TimeToast

TimeToast is a great online timeline maker that is easy for both students and teachers to use. Timelines are very effective tools to allow students to "see" when things happen in relation to other events. I know with my students, the concept of time and when things happen in relation to each other is a difficult concept. Want to see blank stares? Just try explaining BC and AD to a bunch of 6th graders without a visual. But with TimeToast, you can create a timeline and help illustrate what you are trying to explain, whether it's important events of the civil war, events of a story, the development of a vaccine, etc. in chronological order. Have students create a free account and assign them a timeline to show anything you are learning about! You can share a link or embed the timeline right onto your website.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Yet another use for Google Drive (perhaps my favorite!)

Last week, my daughter, Olivia, broke her foot during recess. It was a very unfortunate thing, as she will now miss the rest of her basketball tournaments and perhaps the high school musical. However, there is a silver lining in this occurrence because it gave me an idea.  Because of the injury, I had to miss a day of school to bring Olivia to the doctor to get checked by an orthopedic surgeon. After the appointment and a pizza bagel, we headed home so she could rest and elevate her foot, as it was too sore to try school.  Since I was at home with Olivia, I decided to experiment with my BFF: Google Drive.  My students that day were working on their powerpoints in their Google drive account. I broke them up into city-states of Greece and we set it up so each group was working on one powerpoint together, but with their own computer (side note and future post: it worked great. Made me wish I had more computers even more than I already do). Anyway, on Monday, when I had my students start the project, the first thing I had them do was share the powerpoint with me, so I was "in" their project and had edit rights to all of their projects. So on Wednesday, when I was home with Olivia, I jumped on my computer while Olivia was resting and opened each groups' powerpoint in the class period that was currently going on. It was great! I could be at two places at once. I was home tending to my daughter, but still at school with my students, monitoring their progress, watching them work. I could actually see them type! I used the "comment" feature to give advice, tips, pointers, things to think about, questions, etc. on their projects as they worked. They could reply to my comments to ask me questions or say something. I even recovered a groups' project that got deleted somehow from my house. They thought it was so cool (and thankful). The students knew I was in their powerpoint with them because my avatar popped up in their project, so they knew I was watching. My student teacher said that definitely kept them on task. With Google Drive, collaboration happens in real-time, which means the students see the letters as I type them, they do not have to refresh the browser. Google Drive, among the many awesome things it can do, gives us the opportunity to be at two places at once. I wanted to keep an eye on the project and be available to the students in case they had any questions, and Google Drive allowed me to do just that.  At the end of the class, I told my student teacher to put a Google Doc on the smartboard that I created and shared with him. This allowed me to talk to the whole class because they could watch the words as I typed them from my house. It allowed me to stay connected with my students and give them some reminders, despite my absence. I talked to my student teacher about this and he said it worked great. The students were glued to the screen, watching me type. The students thought it was very helpful that I was "with" them, even though I was gone from school.