Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cure for the Disease that is PowerPoint

For those of you have officially seen too many PowerPoint presentations from a colleague or a student... or your self, there is help out there! There is no disputing that PowerPoint is the most used and viewed presentation software out there, but if you are like me, you want something different. The Microsoft Labs created a software add on called PPTPlex to help revamp the program but it did not work and they gave up on the project. So, that left me to search for something a little more interactive and not so linear in it's format.

One that I started using at the end of this past school year was prezi, which was passed on by a colleague of mine. You can sign up and use it for free at http://www.prezi.com/ There are advanced versions that do come with the price, but the basic version is free and easy to use. To be the best features of this program is that it is not linear like PowerPoint and is more aesthetically  pleasing for your audience. On the site there are some great sample presentations created that can give you a great idea of what it possible with this program.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chat Room for Class

If you are like me, you are constantly battling your students to get information out of them in terms of sharing their thoughts and ideas. However, if you checked their cell phones or their Facebook accounts, you would probably find out they have lots of thoughts and are not as "shy" as they appear in class discussions. Rather than spying into your student's inner thoughts, there is a neat tool that can help open that door up a bit. If you go to http://www.todaysmeet.com/ you can create a chat room on the fly. When you go to the site you will be prompted to create a name for your room as well as a time duration. You will then get a url right when you create the room that you can post on your website or physically give to your students. It is nice also, to put a limit on the chat room so that it will close when you are done using it for class.

Now that you have created this quick chat room you can use it in your classroom. For example, when students are watching those amazing History Channel clips, you can have them post thoughts and chat about what they are watching. This is better than them sitting trying to stay awake, and more stimulating that writing on a photocopied worksheet. Another idea could be to have students chatting while reading a novel or set up a collaborative project chatting about a topic with students in another school, state, or country!  Bottom line it is a simple and easy way to have students share their thoughts in an environment that they are increasingly more comfortable with.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Crazy Talk 6

For those looking for a great relatively cheap software program to add some spice to your lesson or projects, check out a program called Crazy Talk 6. You can get it at http://www.reallusion.com/crazytalk/ If you do some searching around you can get a cheaper education discount. I have used this program to have Abe Lincoln talk to my kids about the Gettysburg Address among other things. At the end of this past school year I had my Social Science classes use it to create biography sketches for some of the historical folks we studied. Here is a short example a student created for Martin Luther... enjoy!
video

For the Music Folks

Here are two more resources that I picked up at a session with Tammy Worcester at ISTE. http://www.tammyworcester.com/ These are great for music teachers but I can see some application in other areas as well. The first one is http://www.jamstudio.com/ which allows you to create, edit, and download your own music. Even a novice musician can create some great music. Personally, I think of some of the little movie projects my students do and how cool it would be to let them spend some of their free time in class or at home creating some theme music that is authentic and theirs. I also plan on using this site to have my school News Show crew create our own personalized anthem. I am a PC guy and I hear this is a similar to Mac's garage band.

The other site is more specific to music and really to a piano player. When you go to http://www.kisstunes.com/ you can turn your keyboard into a piano which is pretty sweet!

Welcome

Welcome to my newly created blog. My intention and goal of this blog is to share technology tools for teachers and educators. I am a 6th grade teacher in suburban Chicago, IL and am always on the look out for the newest and greatest Web 2.0 application or something to help bring my curriculum to life in an engaging way. All of the stuff I will post here will be things I have either found or stolen from a conference or a colleague. I will do my best to give credit to all that I have stolen from! I will also do my best to share things that I have actually tried myself with "real life" students so if you have questions don't hesitate to ask!

The first tool I wanted to toss up is one I recently picked up at the ISTE conference in Denver, CO. Being a Language Arts teacher I like to find new ways to engaged kids in writing and vocabulary. One site that I think many teachers are familiar with is http://www.wordle.net/ which allows you to create a word cloud or collage of sorts. However, it is fairly limited in terms of really going to the next step and creating shapes and more advanced options. So, check out http://www.tagxedo.com/ and see the difference. Not only can you create the word clouds, but you can also manipulate those clouds into specific shapes. So if you are doing a poetry unit and want to have students take their writing and put it into shapes, this is your site. It is really just a fun way to get kids to interact with vocabulary. The great thing is that you can do this in any subject area. Think about taking your key vocabulary terms from your unit on Ancient Rome and putting it into the shape of Italy... cool stuff!