Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Put student ideas in a Museum Box

Looking for a new way for kids to show what they know?  Check out the web 2.0 tool "Museum Box"

What is it?  Well, here's how the site describes it:  "This site provides the tools for you to build up an argument or description of an event, person or historical period by placing items in a virtual box. What items, for example, would you put in a box to describe your life; the life of a Victorian Servant or Roman soldier; or to show that slavery was wrong and unnecessary? You can display anything from a text file to a movie. You can also view and comment on the museum boxes submitted by others."

The student can attach videos, their own documents, images, powerpoints, audio files, links... all of which can be played / viewed by whomever looks inside the virtual box.  

Here's one example of a single cube:
museumbox 1.PNG

These boxes can be arranged in a drawer of related cubes.  Consider this one on the industrial revolution:

museumbox 2.PNG

Each cube explores one facet of the revolution, including a variety of media and text files that demonstrate what the child knows.  Here's one excellent example of what a museum box can do.

Educators can set up a free account and then set up simple registrations for their students (you can even do a bulk upload of IDs and passwords in an Excel file - just create a spreadsheet following the instructions on the teacher page of the site, and all your kids can be set up at once.  They can then create cubes and submit them for your comments and approval.

How can these be used, beyond the history classroom?
  • In ELA, they would make a nice option for exploring a character or literary concept - say, a cube focusing on the symbolism of stars in Under the Persimmon Tree...
  • In social studies, there are TONS of examples on the site - a drawer focusing on a country being studied in Africa, where one cube focuses on food, another on climate, a third on clothing, etc.
  • For world languages, a cube can demonstrate understanding of key vocabulary words: with sides showing images displaying their names in English and the target language, an audio sample of the student speaking, and even a paragraph of written text...
The uses are many and varied - take a few minutes to explore the site, and see what some other educators have done with this interesting little online tool...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Scheduling Student-Led Conferences

More and more teams at Oak and Sherwood are adopting a student-led conference model compared to the traditional teacher-parent conference. One of the big advantages to this format is the ability to meet more of the parents. In order to accommodate everyone, we have parents sign up for a fifteen minute time slot while they are visiting our classrooms on Curriculum Night. There are four openings for parents per time slot. If you would like access to the spreadsheet, please email us.

After Curriculum Night, we recorded the last name of each student and their time slot into a Google Spreadsheet. This document is shared with team members and made viewable to anyone who has access to the link.

How this helps us
  • Administration, Allied arts teachers, and Foreign Language teachers all have access to our Conference Day schedule. They know when to stop by if/when they need to speak with a student and his/her parents.
  • Parents who signed up for a time slot can confirm that time. If they realize there is a conflict, they can change.
  • Parents who were unable to attend Curriculum Night can see which time slots are still available. They can send an email to the team and request a meeting time. Once we "pencil in" a parent for a particular time slot, all other parents can see that time slot is no longer available.

Please leave a comment with any suggestions you have regarding student-led conferences. 

Do you have another system for scheduling parents?
Does your team use technology during the conferences?
Any other suggestions for using Google Spreadsheets?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Making passwords easier to remember

How many passwords do you have to remember?  Between school sites, various home bill and credit card sites (not to mention fantasy football leagues) most of us have well over a dozen passwords to remember... Many people cycle through the same couple ones, depending on the site.

How often have you forgotten a password?

Here’s a simple way to keep all your passwords random – difficult to hack – yet easy to remember:

Choose a word with a capital letter, and a random number.  This becomes the base for all your passwords.  Between the word and the number, insert the initials of the site or service.

For example, if you chose “Firetruck 284”  your password for Verizon would be FiretruckV284...for Xfinity it would be FiretruckX284.  Simple to remember – a word and number – but different for every site.  The mix of characters – letters and numbers, capital and lower case, keeps it random enough to protect your identity.

Managing your passwords

If you already use numerous passwords and have trouble remembering them all, there are numerous applications for computers and smart phones that help you manage all of this important information. I use an app called Msecure that can be used on a Mac/PC and any Android or iOS device (iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad). It does cost money ($7), but I use it to manage all of my passwords, usernames, credit card information, membership numbers, and just about anything else I ever need. Another option is to make a file or an entire folder on your computer password-protected so only you can access it.

Additional Resources

Monday, September 5, 2011

Access your files anywhere with Dropbox

Have you ever gotten to school, only to find your flash drive is sitting at home, or the file you thought you saved on your school system was saved somewhere else?  With this tool, that will never happen again...

Dropbox is a file sync and storage system that allows you to keep files in sync across multiple computers and backed up on their servers.  When you register for a free account and install the program, it creates a folder on your computer. This folder is like any other folder on your system - you can store files in it, open them, save them, etc. The difference is that the items you save in that folder are being saved remotely - on the Dropbox site, not your computer. 

With this program installed, you can access files on multiple devices at any time. (There are Dropbox apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, and Blackberry.) Once a file is updated on one device, it automatically gets synced on all other devices.

You can also share specific files or entire folders in your Dropbox with other users -- allowing you to get files to those who need them, without worrying about an email attachment being too large. The site gives 2 gigabytes free, and another 250 MB for each person who references you when they sign up - they also get an additional 250 for using the referral. The short video below explains the basics of this tool.

Benefits to Using Dropbox:
  • Back up all of your important documents. They used to say "Back up everything to the server", but this was time consuming and only accessible from within school. Dropbox automatically backs up everything without you having to worry about it. It also keeps track of deleted files. These can be restored later on.
  • Undo mistakes.  Dropbox saves not just your file, but each earlier version that you saved.  So, if you accidentally deleted a paragraph or slide, etc., you can go back to a previous version.
  • Keep your files organized on different computers. Many teachers use their school laptops in addition to another home computer, tablet, or smart phone so it can be tough keeping everything organized. Since Dropbox keeps all of your devices in sync with each other, you are more organized.
  • Collaborate using shared folders. We have a shared "8 Gold" folder that includes student schedules, calendars, and "beginning of year" forms. If someone edits a document, the changes are updated for all of us. Derek and I have another shared folder for the school yearbook.

Additional Resources:

Dropbox Features

Dropbox Blog
OMS New Literacies Wiki
Send to Dropbox - Allows you to send email attachments directly to your Dropbox folder
Dropbox loves schools! - All users with an ".edu" email address gets double the space (500 mb) for referrals! Updated (9/6)