Archive | April 2013

It’s called Crocodoc but it surely won’t bite

This week, the tool I discovered is called Crocodoc.

It is a web application that allows you to upload Microsoft Office documents of PDF files and modify them. In fact, the functions of this web app allow you to highlight, take notes and add comments directly on the document you have uploaded. There are some tutorials online that can help you get started with the application. It’s actually really user-friendly because you don’t need to register to have access to the documents. When you upload a document in Crocodoc, the application creates an URL link for the document and that is what you share with others.

In the classroom, I could use this website to correct my students’ papers. I could use the “note” function and comment on what they are missing or what they should add. I can even directly write on their document or highlight the parts that they need to work on.

Also, as Richard Byrne mentioned, I could ask my students to use Crocodoc for peer editing. Students could leave comment on other students’ work and they could even work on a project together without constantly deleting the version of the others (as it would do with a tool like Google Docs, for example).

Also, as stated on this blog, I could use it to modify files or course notes that I would have done in the past. For example, I could add little notes on it as reminders or I could underline parts which I think I should put more emphasis on.

Finally, as I read here, Crocodoc made a major improvement from their original version. Indeed, they allowed its users to annotate websites. This is really great because I could ask my students to read information on a webpage and to give their opinion or underline the main ideas directly on the page. They could then send me the URL corresponding to their work and I could see what they did. That way, I would know if they got the information right. Of course, you can understand that the possibilities are greater if I do it that way than if I have to print all the text from the webpages and bring a copy in class for each student.

I think Crocodoc is a real time saver and I’m sure that it will become one of the most used tools for annotating documents in the future. I know I’ll start to use it right away!

Where is education going?

Being a teacher in today’s world is completely different from being a teacher before computers existed. One of the questions that people ask me the most is if I am scared that this job will disappear at one point because students will be able to find all the answers they need through the Internet. My answer to that question is no, I’m not scared at all. Why? Because I think my job, as a teacher, is to adapt my teaching methods to the students that are in front of me. If the students are interested in the Internet, I’ll be on the internet. If they want to have private lessons on Skype, I’ll give them. I think we can always find a way to get knowledge going from teachers to students. Keeping that in mind, the tool I wanted to talk about this week might be one step forward in the right direction.

The tool is called OpenStudy.

It basically allows students to go and ask teachers and other students from around the world questions about their school problems. The website divides the subjects into different categories. The students only need to log in the website and look for answers! They can either ask their own questions or go through the already-existing ones. As a future teacher, I went to the “English” section and I was able to answer some questions.

What is nice about it is that as a teacher, I could see what other teachers ask around the world about a specific topic. I could get ideas through the questions that were asked to the students.

Another thing I could do is that I could choose a question on the website that was already asked and tell my students to go and try to answer it. They could keep a little diary with the questions they answered about English. As Alexia Tsotsis mentioned on her blog, OpenStudy’s mission is basically to become the biggest group study of the world. No matter where you are and what you are studying, there is a possibility that somewhere out there, someone can answer your question. Now this is what I call cooperative learning!

When I first went on the website, it seemed that its general image was a little overcrowded and that maybe students would have difficulty to find THE answer/question that they are looking for and that if too many people participated, it would be hard to get all questions answered. However, according to this article, around 250 000 students visit the platform each month and the majority of questions are answered within five minutes.

Since it’s sometimes hard to motivate students to do well at school when they have about a thousand reasons to do something else than studying, OpenStudy created Catapult, a program according to which students can be sponsored by a member of their family. Together, they can set objectives and an amount of money given if their goal is achieved.

With ideas like this, I hope you now understand why I can’t be scared that teaching and education will disappear at one point. Of course, I’m convinced that its format will totally change, but I’m ready to change with it!

Pearltrees

Nowadays, there is a big debate around the use of social media in the classroom. Personally, I think that if things are done appropriately and if teachers are careful not to expose any student’s personal life to the public, social media can be totally suitable for educational purposes. This is why this week, I chose to talk about a tool that is somewhere between various types of social media. The tool I’m referring to is called Pearltrees.

To get you started, I refer you to a short video so you can have a general idea of what Pearltrees is.

Basically (in case you don’t feel like watching the video), Pearltrees is an online platform on which people can create “pearls” (a little bubble on the platform) and put either images, notes or even direct links to websites in them. They can create pearltrees, which basically group their pearls into categories. Afterwards, they can share their pearltrees with other users, on Facebook, Twitter or by e-mail.

Here are some Pearltrees that were made by other users for educational purposes.

I would use Pearltrees with students by asking them to make a project on a specific topic (literally, it could be any project) and they can put all their sources in a pearl and share it with other students or with the teacher. That way, they wouldn’t need to worry about plagiarism because they could directly include their resources in their pearltree. Also, I could give a class to students and have all my images and my websites grouped into pearls so that I wouldn’t have to go through all the open pages or the list of “my favorites” which are on only one computer.

Since it’s a form of mind mapping, I could get them to read some resources and they would have to gather some information from the web. Instead of having a list of websites that are all disorganized, I would put the links in Pearltrees and so that they would see where they are going.

I could also ask the students to create a pearltree as a class. This could help students find common interests and could lead to really interesting discussions and debates in the classroom. For the classroom, it’s interesting to know that there is also a Premium version which allows the users to make the pearltrees confidential and more private.

I read a really good blog article from a teacher who totally convinced me to use Pearltrees in the classroom (and why not in my personal life…?).

He had some good ideas for teaching with Pearltrees like paying attention to people who share my pearls because this probably mean I could share theirs as well or that at least I share some common interests. I could get ideas from other teachers’ pearls.

I understand that some teachers are reluctant to use social media in the classroom, but I think Pearltrees could be a really good and interesting starting point.

Organization 101

Even if I’m only in the first year of my program, I already learned a lot about my future profession. The thing that I’m sure I’ll never forget is that teachers need to be organized in almost every aspect of their life. I know I’ll need to be organized because I like it when everything is clear in my head and I’m convinced that students can definitely tell if teachers are well-prepared or not.

This is why when I read about Planboard, I thought it was one of the best ideas I had seen and that it would be my one of my favorite tools for the years to come. The description from the Planboard team also helped to convince me to use it.

Basically, Planboard is a free online tool to help teachers organize their school year. It allows you to plan your activities for each period of the day. You can choose your own school calendar and it will automatically repeat the periods you create. It is totally user friendly and there are not a lot of things on the page so you don’t need to be worried about being disturbed by ads or numerous functions all over the page. Here is what it looks like.

What I like about it is that I could plan my whole semester or school year with it and I could keep it for the years after. I could also modify it as I go and see the progression of the students’ learning. The other good thing about it is that there is an enormous amount of lesson plans available that were created by other teachers who use Planboard so I could look at them to get inspired.

Another of its main advantages is that it is directly on the internet so I can have access to it from wherever I might be. I wouldn’t need to carry my agenda and erase in it each time my plans change or if I make a mistake. It’s also easier to keep if I want to use it in for the following years than keeping an agenda from each year.

As Herbert Lui expressed in his blog, this tool is a goldmine for substitute teacher. Indeed, teachers could post their schedule on this tool so that their substitute teacher could have access to their whole lesson plan! They could even print it out and tell them what they had time to do, etc. In addition to sharing it with the substitute teacher, the teacher could also share it with students who missed class so they would know what the rest of the class saw and what they have to do for next class.

I think the creators of this tool really had the needs of the teachers in mind when they created it. On this note (I know it’s not really related to the tool itself but I’m sure you’ll like it anyways), the Planboard team created a movement for teachers and I thought I’d share it with you because I personally really enjoyed going over some of the stuff you can find here.

Hope this will help you find the motivation you need to fulfill your duty! 😉

Let’s change the traditional format of paper exams!

This week, you got lucky! Indeed, I’m gonna be adding two new posts because I had just that much to say about technology in education! This first post will be dedicated to a tool that I already used back in the days when I was doing another degree in another university (but we won’t get into that story…)

So, the tool is called Google Drive and it is itself divided into other tools which I’ll go through with you.

The first tool is called Google Docs and it basically takes the shape of a Word document. The only difference is that students can work in team to modify the document as they wish. There are a lot of things I could use Google Docs for but I’ll only name a few. First, I could use it to make discussion going about a topic covered in class. For example, I could show a movie in class and ask the students to react to it. I could provide a list of questions to guide their discussion or I could tell them to decide on what they would like to focus (the characters, for example). They could share some links on the topics (e.g.: a website with movie reviews, etc.). I could then keep track of their discussion or their answers to my questions since they could share their document with me. I could also ask my students to use Google Docs for a creative writing activity in team. I could provide them with a theme or an instruction and they could each add their own part of the story.

In the same train of thoughts, I could also get the students to work in team with another of the Google Drive tools which is Google Presentations. This tool provides students with a document similar to the one offered by Microsoft PowerPoint. The students could prepare a presentation altogether without even being in the same room. They could do the presentation of a written project that they would have done in team with Google Docs, for example. That way, they could basically cut and paste some of the information that they would already have in their other shared document. Both projects would be placed in Google Drive, which would be easier for them to access.

In addition to using it for team work, I could also use it for individual purposes. When I was a student in another program, I used it for reading comprehension activities. In fact, the teacher would give us texts to read and would provide us with two reflection questions. We would then have to choose one of the two questions and submit our answer to the teacher through Google Docs. He would then correct and add comments to our answer and even grade our work directly in the document. That semester, not a single piece of paper was exchanged between the teacher and the students! Now that’s what I call being environmentally friendly!

The last tool I want to introduce you to is called Google Form. This basically allows the teacher or the students to create different kinds of forms. The two main ideas would be to use it to survey your students or to test them. I really like the latter one because I never really liked exams as a student so I’m always trying to find new and interesting ways to test my students in the future. With Google Form, I could create a whole exam with different types of answers like multiple choices, scales or paragraph texts. The nice thing about it is that I can send the exam to the students on their e-mail address and as they open it, they are able to see the questions, answer and submit it directly in their e-mail. Another amazing thing about it is that when it comes to getting the answers from the students, Google Drive basically does the work for you! Indeed, you have the possibility to put the results of the students automatically in an Excel Spreadsheet which makes the correction a lot easier for you. You can also see when the students answered to your exam which is useful if you give them a specific amount of time to do it!

The bad thing about that tool is that you can never tell your students that you lost all their copies when, in fact, you just didn’t want to correct them! 😉