Monday, October 24, 2011

Simplify your conference feedback with online forms

So, conference day is coming quickly - it's now a week away... and many of us are doing student-led conferences. 

If you're like my team, you want to know how it goes - what's the parent perspective on the day, and what can you do better next time?  Also, you know there will be parents who will want to meet with just the teachers sometime in the near future.  The question is how to get information from the parents quickly and easily...

We used to have two stacks of papers - a survey and a conference request form.  Parents would fill them out as needed, turn them in to the appropriate box, and then we'd take a day to sort through the information during our preps.  Once we started using Google Docs, however, it seemed natural to eliminate the paper and switch to a digital format.  We began experimenting with the 'create forms' option in Google Docs, and found that it works quite well for our needs:

You can see our parent conference request form here:

And our student-led conference survey form is here:

So, on conference day, we take out a laptop cart and set up a bank of 5 or 6 laptops.  We launch the web browser on them, and load the conference survey page.  At each conference table, we have a basic set of instructions, which ends with a request to take a moment to fill out the survey.  At the bottom of the survey page is the link for the conference request form.

What are the benefits to using this system?
  1. No paper - we don't need to rifle through a stack of forms, or keep track of where we put them.
  2. Results are instant - with Google Survey, we can check on results in real time - it gives handy pie charts and graphs that show the responses in real time.
  3. Shared access: Each teacher - and anyone else that needs the information - can have instant access to it.
So, how do you do it?

In Google Docs, just click Create-->Forms.  It's a simple drag and drop process...  then you just save the form, click "go to live form" and you're off to the races.  
But we can make it even easier:
If your team is interested, drop us a note and we can give you a copy of ours, and help you set it up.  Our preps are from 11:30 to 1 pm, and we can be available to help you at bus dismissal as well.  So let us know, and we can get you up and running in no time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Using YouTube in Your Classroom

Most educators today will agree that YouTube contains a wealth of educational information. Unfortunately, many teachers are hesitant to show YouTube videos in class because they run the real risk of exposing students to inappropriate material. Even if you know the video itself is appropriate, you have had no control over the comments for the video or the "related videos" shown to the side... until now.

ViewPure is a great website that basically strips all of the unnecessary junk (comments, related videos, suggestions, etc.) away and just shows the video you want to watch.

To use ViewPure, copy the link of the video into the site's "purifier" and click "Create". This will create a unique link for this video free of any distractions. This link can be shared with students if you would like them to view a video from home.

To make it even easier, ViewPure's website has a "purify" button that you can drag to become a permanent part of your web browser's address bar. This button does the same function as described above without having to visit the ViewPure website. Just open a video on YouTube, then click on the "purify" button in your address bar to remove all of the extras.

 Before ViewPure: Notice all of the clutter...related videos, comments, and extra information.

After ViewPure: All of the clutter is gone! There are a few links at the top which allow you to share the video with others.

Additional Resources

Learn about the "YouTube for Schools" community! There is plenty of helpful information on why and how to use YouTube in your class. You can submit or search for content-specific "playlists" of videos. For example, check out my Chemistry Playlist. These are all of the videos I have saved that I find useful to show during my chemistry classes.

12 Useful YouTube Accessories for Teachers and Students

This "Free Tech 4 Teachers" blog post gives additional suggestions for removing clutter, as well as tools for cutting and remixing YouTube videos, and editing videos within YouTube itself.

I have my own YouTube channel, manage a few science playlists, and "subscribe" to authors of videos I find helpful (such as Bill Nye, Steve Spangler, and Discovery Channel). If you are interested in using YouTube more in your class and have questions about any of its features, I would be happy to help you out.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Creating a "Facebook" with

Social media has become an integral part of our students - and our own - lives.  Along with this, it has become a classroom tool - many teachers have kids design fake Facebook pages to demonstrate their understanding of a fictional or historic character.  Take this example for A Midsummer Night's Dream:

 This profile wasn't done on Facebook, however - it was created using a template on -- a very simple interface that allows anyone to create a profile page quickly and easily.  The page can be saved, printed, downloaded... allowing students to focus on the content, not the layout.

You can view a brief video that explains the tool here.

While you explore Fakebook at, take a look at some of their other templates --

Post It allows you to upload any image and turn it into a label-type quiz, useful for any time you need kids to learn the parts of something - regions of a country, anatomy, elements of a structure, etc.

Telescopic Topic lets you import any outline / bullet point list and make it collapsible - so students only see the main topics, then can click on them to get more information / detail, and even add in new facts as they learn them.  This could be useful for outlining a paper, letting students see just the main ideas and how they relate to one another, and then revealing details and analysis that support each point.

Beyond this, they have all the usuals - venn diagrams, fishbone, hamburger... even a plagiarism checker for essays.

The site has a number of great templates -- give it a look, and give some a try!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Printing Double-Sided Papers

 Do you make double-sided copies when you photocopy assignments for your students? If not, you should!

As Oak and Sherwood both attempt to limit paper consumption for communication and assignment purposes, we have a responsibility to consume only what we need. Making double-sided copies conserves paper. I know many teachers who cringe at the sight of a packet being copied with only one side being used. If you do only need one side, you can encourage students to use the other side as scrap paper, a drawing, or some reflection.

While I am not sure about the printers at Sherwood, many of the Oak printers are capable of printing on both sides of the paper. This is especially helpful if you need to print multiple pages. If you are unsure how to do this, follow these steps below. I have also attached a screen shot of the printing menu for your convenience.

1. Open up the document of your choice and click “Print”.

2. When the printer window pops up, click where it says “Copies and Pages”.

3. Choose “Layout”.

4. Next to where it says “Two-Sided”, choose “Long-Edge Binding”.

5. Hit “Print”. Voila!