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Free Stuff for Educators - New TL Blog posted today

Thursday, April 30, 2009


I posted a new TechLearning blog today about Free Stuff for Educators. Originally posted at TechLearning HERE


One of the beautiful things about the 21st Century and the Internet is the amount of free stuff you can find out there. This month's Tech&Learning magazine talks about funding resources, but I want to address some of the things that are free.

The first free resource I use is Google. Google Mail, Calendar, iGoogle, Google Docs, Blogger, Earth...and the list goes on and on. If you are looking to start using Google, the best place to start is the Google Educators page (http://www.google.com/educators/index.html ). This site describes the applications available to educators for free, how to use them in class, and has lists of resources to help you use these resources. I personally use so many Google resources because they all "play well together." There are a lot of other free resources out there that I will list below.

Free Productivity Software:
1. OpenOffice - http://www.openoffice.org - free office software that can be downloaded onto a computer. It includes documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.
2. Google Docs - http://docs.google.com - online, hosted office software. Documents, Spreadsheets, and Presentations.
3. Zoho - http://www.zoho.com - online, hosted office software. Documents, Spreadsheets, and Presentations, and much more.

Free Grade book
1. Engrade - http://www.engrade.com - online, hosted grade book. Students and parents can be given access codes and will be able to see their grades at any time.

Free Windows Power Toys
A variety of free tools that Microsoft programmers created on their own. Includes SyncToy (for syncing files across multiple disks or computers), Alt-Tab replacement (adds a thumbnail view to the task switcher), Power Calculator and Taksbar Magnifier (which allows you to magnify part of your screen).

Miscellaneous Free Stuff
1. CutePDF - http:// www.cutepdf.com - free download that allows you to "print" any file to a pdf file. Very easy to use and very useful.
2. Adobe Acrobat Reader - http://get.adobe.com/reader/ - read pdf files.
3. Foxit Reader - http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/rd_intro.php - read pdf files.
4. Evernote - http://www.evernote.com - note taking system. Very powerful. Mobile, desktop, and online versions are available.
5. PBWiki - http://pbwiki.com/education.wiki - free wiki creation and hosting
6. Currki - http://www.curriki.org - educational wiki's, wiki hosting, and more.
7. Objectdock - http://www.stardock.com/products/objectdock/ - free download that allows Windows users to organize their shortcuts, applications, and programs in an attractive animated dock at the bottom of the screen. It is similar to Mac OS's dock.
8. Ninehub - http://www.ninehub.com - free Moodle hosting. Ninehub will host your Moodle classes for free.

Free Resources
1. Tech&Learning Magazine - http://www.techlearning.com - free educational journal
2. THE Journal - http://www.thejournal.com - free educational technology journal
3. eSchoolnews - http://www.eschoolnews.com - free newsletters and "Classroom News" educational technology newsletter.
4. Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators -http://school.discoveryeducation.com/schrockguide/ - list of web sites and educator resources
5. Teachopolis - http://teachopolis.org - huge resource for educators, with information on educational technology, pedagogy, and more

I also share my class website, http://www.physicsmedic.org , with other teachers. Besides having resources on here for my students, I have links, articles, and downloads for teachers.
I also have my own blog, http://educationaltechnologyguy.blogspot.com , that I invite teachers to visit, read, and comment.


This is just a small sampling of some of the free resources out there for educators. It can be overwhelming at times, so start small, try a couple of them out, and then move on.
For a more expansive list of resources, click HERE and then download "Ed Tech 103 - Free Educational Technology."

Posted by Tech Learning Blog Staff at 04/23/2009 02:31:56 PM | 

Merge PDF files for free

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I have been a long time user of CutePDF Writer to create PDF files from other files like Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and even webpages. It simple installs as a "printer" on your computer and you select that instead of your actual printer.

Today, I found out how to merge multiple PDF files into one PDF file. The best news, it's free!

Quick PDF tools is a great resource. The software is easy to install and very easy to use and the website has easy to follow instructions. You simple select the PDF files you want to merge in Windows Explorer, right click, select QuickPDF tools, and select merge. You can then order them in the window in the order you want them merged, and then select merge. It is really that easy.

I ended up using it today to merge 15 different PDF files into one guidebook that I use when teaching Google for Educators. It was easy to do and saved me a lot of time and effort.

Check it out!

Free stuff for students

I just found this web site today. The site is College Tips and Resources, specifically for online courses. 

This article has a list of 69 Free or Open source tools for students.

I use many of them myself, as do many other teachers.

I really like this list as it contains a lot of great resources.

 Share it with your students.

Discovery Educator Network Virtual Conference

Thursday, April 23, 2009



Discovery Education and the DEN (Discovery Educator Network) are having a Virtual Conference.

Spring Into Action at the DEN Virtual Conference
Spring Into Action with the DEN during this unique (and free) professional development event where you have the flexibility to attend online or in-person at one of many regional events hosted by the DEN Leadership Councils.

When?
Saturday, April 25, 2009
9 AM to 3 PM EDT

Where?
Online or in-person.

How much?
Free.

The day will feature a special presentation from Chris Lehmann, Principal of the Science Leadership Academy in the School District of Philadelphia as well as a great lineup of sessions from STAR Discovery Educators and the DEN team.

Click HERE to register. Remember, it's FREE!

FETC Virtual Conference going on right now!




I'm attending the FETC Virtual conference right now. Come and join me.

Great Free Anatomy Resource



I just found this great site today - Visible Body. It is a 3D view of the human body that allows you to add or subtract different systems, rotate and zoom, and really explore the human body. I will be using this with my EMT classes and have been telling other medical instructors and A&P teachers about it.

Free web sites for teachers

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Besides Google Sites, there are other sites that allow teachers to create free web sites for their classes. Try out ClassjumpClassJump.com provides teachers web sites free of charge, where multiple classes can be managed and updated using an easy to understand interface. No knowledge of web site programming is needed to get your class or classes set up and quickly providing up-to-date information for your students and parents.

Great resource for all kinds of great things!

I love this website: Lifehacker. Lifehacker is one of those web sites that has lots of great things for all parts of your life. Lifehacker is an award-winning daily blog that features tips, shortcuts, and downloads that help you get things done smarter and more efficiently. I have found tips and ideas on it for school, home organization, mattress buying tips, software tips, other web resources, and more. Check it out.

Dropout prevention

I just saw this posted on the Teachpaperless blog. Project Dropout is a PBS program created to address the issue of students dropping out of school. Every teacher and administrator should look at this.

New Teacher Advice - TechLearning Advisor Article

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I just posted a new TL Advisor blog on advice for new teachers. Originally posted at Tech&Learning .

I was thinking about the fact that colleges graduate next month and there will be a new batch of teachers to join our distinguished profession. I also work with Connecticut's Alternate Route to Certification program (ARC) which prepares people to switch careers into teaching. I am also a graduate of the ARC program. As I was preparing for a Saturday seminar with the current ARC class, I realized that the soon-to-be graduates and new teachers could use some advice. So here it is, my advice to new teachers.

Your best resource as a new teacher is yourself. Use what you learned in school. Seek out more information from colleagues and the Internet. Use your creativity. Remember what it was like to be a student yourself.

Ask for help. Don't be afraid to ask other teachers for help. Do not isolate yourself in your classroom. Make connections with other teachers, whether it is in person, by email, Facebook, Ning, Twitter, web sites, or blogs.

Don't reinvent the wheel. Use the resources that are available to you. Most textbooks now come with instructor resource CD-ROMs and companion web sites. Use the resources that they have and then modify them as needed. Search the Internet for lesson plan ideas, activities, classroom management tips, and other tips and tricks.

Stay organized. You need to stay organized. Make sure you have a lesson plan guide and calendar of some sort. You can use a paper based planner and lesson planner or use an electronic or web-based system. Smartphones, such as those from Palm (Centro), RIM (Blackberry), and Apple (iPhone) are great for staying organized. You can also use online resources like Google, Yahoo, and others to keep your files, calendar, tasks, and lesson plans organized. Write things down and make sure you have your classroom materials organized and labeled.

Take advantage of professional development opportunities. Your district and school will run professional development sessions, but don't limit yourself to those. Look for free online sessions, webcasts, conferences, and sessions run by your local educational resource agency.

Join a professional society in your area. As a physics teacher, I have joined the National Science Teacher's Association (NSTA) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). Find out what organizations are in your area and join them. You will find resources and contacts through these organizations.

Read journals. Subscribe to and read educational journals. Most are free, so you don't have to worry about the money. There are journals on general education, educational technology, pedagogy, assessment, and just about every other area of education.

Be creative with your lessons. Think outside the box. Come up with new, fun ways to teach the students. Use projects and project-based-learning as a way to engage and teach your students. You can find a huge number of resources and ideas for projects on the web.

Read some books on education. My personal favorites to start with are "First Days of School", by Harry Wong, and "Your First Year as a High School Teacher", by Lynne Rominger, et al.

Don't pay for things if you can get them for free. There are tons of free resources, from software to web sites, that can help you in your classroom.

Make connections with the secretaries and custodians in your building. They will be some of your best resources for supplies, ideas, and help.

Make connections with local businesses, especially those that are related to your subject area. They can be a huge resource for guests, supplies and equipment, and funding. Many local businesses, such as Staples, have Teacher Appreciation Days with discounts and free gifts. Find out about these. Remind businesses that instead of throwing out things, they can donate usable items to your school as a tax write-off.

Get to know the publisher's representative for your class's textbook. They can get you a lot of resources.

Be flexible. Remember Murphy's law. Have plans for when your lessons run short or long, to deal with interruptions and fire drills, assemblies, and days when much of your class is absent because of a field trip. Have back up plans for everything and especially have backup plans in case of technology issues.

Know your local and State curriculum. Know what is expected of you. Know what is expected of the students.

Track your personal expenses and save receipts. Their is a tax deduction for educators.

Keep up on your certification requirements.

Ask for help, and look for help. Again, don't be afraid to ask for help.

Good luck and welcome to the profession!

Resources: www.physicsmedic.org , http://educationaltechnologyguy.blogspot.com, www.techlearning.com, www.edutopia.org

 

Posted by Tech Learning Blog Staff at 04/16/2009 11:37:57 AM | 


PBL and Prof Dvlpmnt TL Blogs

I am a TechLearning Advisor for techlearning.com and have been blogging for them. I will post the permalinks here for readers. Some of the articles that I publish on techlearning.com will also be posted here, others may not, but the links will be posted here.

Project Based Learning - posted 4/6/2009

 Project Based Learning - a relatively new idea in high school education, but something I was exposed to many years ago (21) as a freshman at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). I received my Bachelor's Degree in Aerospace Engineering in 1992 and my education at WPI has served me well in a variety of capacities. WPI is mainly a science, technology, engineering, and math school, with some other majors mixed in.


WPI has a unique learning system, called the WPI Plan. This plan stresses project based learning. Why? Because back when they developed the Plan (over 30 years ago) they knew that the only way to truly master subject area content is to apply it. They also knew that students needed to develop teamwork, communication skills, problem solving skills, creativity, critical thinking, and research skills (sounds like "21st Century skills" doesn't it?).

The projects are an integral part of the Plan. All classes are expected to use projects in their curriculum and the school has three projects that all students must complete. The Humanities Sufficiency is a set of 5 themed humanities courses followed by a 1 course long independent study. This project is meant to make the student more well rounded. The IQP (Interactive Qualifying Project) is a team project studying the effects of technology on society or using technology to benefit society that is equivalent to 9 credits. The MQP(Major Qualifying Project) is also equivalent to 9 credits and is a major project in your subject area, similar to a senior thesis.

I think that WPI was ahead of the game with their plan, considering this is the route that high schools and even middle schools are going. K-12 education is starting to realize how important these skills are and that project based learning is a great way to engage students while teaching them content and other needed skills.

I try to use projects when ever possible in my classes. I found that my WPI education has taught me more than the STEM subjects, it has taught me valuable skills that have allowed me to be successful as a teacher, paramedic, engineer, manager, consultant, and husband. I would love to see high schools implement a more structured project based curriculum and provide more support for teachers. I think many teachers are afraid of projects because they fear that the students will not get all of the content that they need. However, if the project is structured properly, the students will get the content in order to complete the project. They will get the content, develop teamwork, communication skills, problem solving skills, and learn organization. They will also get to be social with other students which is very important to them.

Technology can help with project based learning. I always wonder what we could have achieved back then if we had the World Wide Web as it is now. All we had was email and some ftp sites. Students can use technology to do research, organize their projects, and then present their projects as presentations, web sites, blogs, or videos.

For more information on project based learning, see WPIEdutopiaPBL, orGoogle it.

Professional Development - posted 3/27/09

 Professional development is constantly listed as a major factor in improving teaching and learning. Effective professional development is not always delivered and funds are sometimes wasted. A survey by Education Week shows that 77% of respondents feel that their schools and districts do not use professional development funds effectively. In today's financial crisis, this is a major issue. So, how do you deliver effective professional development with less funding? How do we make sure that professional development is timely, interesting, and relevant?

The first option to save money is to use in-house "experts". There is no need to go to expensive outside contractors and consultants when you probably have staff with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in your own building. Look for staff who have extra experience or knowledge in technology, curriculum development, tips and tricks, and other ideas. Have them run professional development sessions. In lieu of payment, offer them double CEU credits or other incentives that are free or low cost. Talk to local businesses about donating gift cards or items to your school and use those, or buy them at a discount. Even if you pay them contractual rates for this kind of thing, it will still be much less expensive than bringing in an outside person.

Another idea is to utilize some of the free professional development available on line. Many conferences have virtual conferences that faculty and staff can attend for free on line. Some colleges and professional development providers offer sessions online for free or reduced fees. You can also give staff a list of web sites that go over the material you want them to gain experience in and then give them time to review the sites.

A great resource that I use is the Teacher Professional Development Sourcebook, from the publisher of Education Week. It is available for free in print twice a year, and also available online. They have great ideas, articles, tips, and resources for professional development.

Some other resources online include:

Connected University - over 60 courses available on the site, including technology integration, educational leadership, and curriculum. A yearly fee provides access to all classes.


Edutopia - These free teaching modules, developed by education faculty, can be used for workshops and meetings.

iSafe - free training for educators in Internet safety.

JASON - Jason, part of the National Geographic Society, has online professional development on its science curricula.

Microsoft Office Online - free, self-paced training courses for Office 2003 and 2007.

National Endowment for the Humanities - grants for teachers

PBS Teacherline - online professional development

Look for educational web sites and magazines that offer free web casts. Use these web casts, either live or archived, as a way to present information to your staff.

This is just a small list of professional development resources available. Have your professional development committee do some Internet searches, check out the Teacher Sourcebook, and see what you can find to improve your professional development offerings without increasing your budget.

When planning Professional Development, make sure you involve a group of teachers in the planning. Have some veteran teachers, mid-career, and newbies in the group to make sure your professional development plans address all of their needs. Work on a small number of topics each year instead of dropping 10 different topics on the teachers with no time to implement or get follow up. Zero in on initiatives that are already in place and help teachers implement them in their classroom. Don't try to bring in every new idea or initiative as this will overwhelm your staff and let to none of it getting implemented. Get feedback from the faculty and staff on what kinds of training they need and want. Use a survey, or other feedback device to get their needs and wants to use when planning the years training. If teachers are involved in the planning and decisions, you will get more buy-in during the training.

Make sure that every professional development session ends with practical tips on how to implement the idea, topic, or initiative in the classroom. Teachers need to know why this is a good thing to do and how to use it in their classroom. Concrete, specific examples are a must.

When teachers attend off-site training, have them come back and present what they learned to the rest of the staff. Set up a blog where these teachers can post their notes and observations for others to see. Post links to the training provider's web site for reference. Teachers can even post to the blog while they are at the event.

Remember that one size does not fit all. Tailor some professional development by subject area or grade. This will lead to more concrete examples of how to use the training in the classroom. Have people from these areas do the planning also.

Integrate professional development with your normal staff meetings. Have one great idea or tool or tip presented at the end of the meeting. If your meeting agenda is short, have a short professional development session during the meeting too. It's amazing how much can be accomplished in 20 minutes.

Embed professional development in the daily schedule. Emails of tips, ideas, and resources should be sent out to the staff. Have other teachers and staff available to help teachers implement what they've learned. Set up a staff blog for teachers to contribute to.

Many teachers will attend training events that are not necessarily run by official CEU providers. Come up with a way to have that training count towards their professional development requirements. Many times, this type of training is free, but teachers are hesitant to go to it because it will not count.

Some professional development sessions can also be reserved for collaboration time. Give teachers time to meet and work in groups to share ideas, tips, struggles, and triumphs. Also give them time to plan how to implement what they've learned in professional development sessions into their classroom. If teachers are not given this planning time, they may never use what they have learned.

Another idea I've seen recently is to have some students attend some of the professional development sessions and use these students as assistants to help implement some of the new ideas. These students can also give feedback on any ideas they have or any challenges that they may see in using that new idea in class.

Technology is a big part of education now. Teachers need to know how to use technology to improve teaching and learning and professional development must address this. In Connecticut, teachers are required to attend training in educational technology. Have teachers who already use technology teach other faculty about it. Send one or two teachers to train-the-trainer sessions so that they teach the rest of the staff. Have a technology open support session where technology savvy teachers, educational technology specialists, and IT staff are on hand to answer any and all questions teachers have or help them with new technologies that they have been working with.

Remember, the goal is to give teachers interesting, timely, relevant professional development that can help them improve the teaching and learning in their classroom. It should be easy to implement, have specific examples of how to implement, and have support and follow up resources available to the faculty. Make professional development something that the teachers look forward to and want to attend and make sure that they have time to plan out their implementation.

In this day and age of reduced, or non-existent, funding, technology resources can help you continue offering rich professional development opportunities for your staff.

Sources of research: Teacher Magazine, TechLearning.com, Edutopia.org.


Thanks for everyone's comments on these articles.


Project Based Learning

Monday, April 6, 2009

Project Based Learning - a relatively new idea in high school education, but something I was exposed to many years ago (21) as a freshman at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). I received my Bachelor's Degree in Aerospace Engineering in 1992 and my education at WPI has served me well in a variety of capacities. WPI is mainly a science, technology, engineering, and math school, with some other majors mixed in. 

WPI has a unique learning system, called the WPI Plan. This plan stresses project based learning. Why? Because back when they developed the Plan (over 30 years ago) they knew that the only way to truly master subject area content is to apply it. They also knew that students needed to develop teamwork, communication skills, problem solving skills, creativity, critical thinking, and research skills (sounds like "21st Century skills" doesn't it?). 

The projects are an integral part of the Plan. All classes are expected to use projects in their curriculum and the school has three projects that all students must complete. The Humanities Sufficiency is a set of 5 themed humanities courses followed by a 1 course long independent study. This project is meant to make the student more well rounded. The IQP (Interactive Qualifying Project) is a team project studying the effects of technology on society or using technology to benefit society that is equivalent to 9 credits. The MQP (Major Qualifying Project) is also equivalent to 9 credits and is a major project in your subject area, similar to a senior thesis.

I think that WPI was ahead of the game with their plan, considering this is the route that high schools and even middle schools are going. K-12 education is starting to realize how important these skills are and that project based learning is a great way to engage students while teaching them content and other needed skills.

I try to use projects when ever possible in my classes. I found that my WPI education has taught me more than the STEM subjects, it has taught me valuable skills that have allowed me to be successful as a teacher, paramedic, engineer, manager, consultant, and husband. I would love to see high schools implement a more structured project based curriculum and provide more support for teachers. I think many teachers are afraid of projects because they fear that the students will not get all of the content that they need. However, if the project is structured properly, the students will get the content in order to complete the project. They will get the content, develop teamwork, communication skills, problem solving skills, and learn organization. They will also get to be social with other students which is very important to them.

Technology can help with project based learning. I always wonder what we could have achieved back then if we had the World Wide Web as it is now. All we had was email and some ftp sites. Students can use technology to do research, organize their projects, and then present their projects as presentations, web sites, blogs, or videos. 

For more information on project based learning, see WPI, Edutopia, PBL, or Google it.

embed files in your blog or web page

I just saw this article over on Tech&Learning about embedit.in. This site allows you to easily embed documents, presentations, pdf files, and images into your blog or website. Check it out.

Some ideas for interdisciplinary activities

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Interdisciplinary activities are anything you do in your class that requires students to use ideas, skills and knowledge from multiple subject areas to complete the task. For instance, doing artwork in science class to illustrate a concept. I was reading an article in Science Teacher magazine yesterday and came up with some ideas to do in my Physics classes.

1. Have students write a short, fiction story that utilizes or explains physics concepts as part of the story. I was also thinking that they could take a science fiction movie or story and address the physics of the movie (real vs. fiction.).

2. Write a song, poem, or rap about a physics concept as a great study aid.

3. Write/create/blog/wiki/poster/presentation applying physics to music, art, etc. One example would be the physics of light and color related to art, or the physics of sound related to their favorite instrument.

4. Create/write/blog/wiki/presentation about how a scientific discovery or new technology has changed the world and history.

I also realized that these types of projects can integrate 21st century skills and technology skills and will definitely be more interesting than a lecture. Students will learn alot and have fun.

Share your ideas for interdisciplinary activities with us!

Notely.net

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I just found out about a great resource for students, Notely.net. Notely has all the tools a student could need, schedule, calendar, note-taking, homework planner and more.

Notely is a collection of online tools designed to help all you crazy busy students out there to organise your hectic lives. Whether you're in University, College or High School Notely has the tools to help you get organized and achieve better grades.

Check it out!

Web 2.0 Flash cards

I just read an article on TechLearning.com by Jenn Farr on creating Web 2.0 flashcards (http://www.techlearning.com/article/16896) and thought I'd post the three online flash card sites that I checked out that I found easy to use. 
All of them also have a huge number of already created flash cards for students to use.




Try them out for yourselves and let students know about them. Besides looking up already created flash card sets, students can create their own for studying.

 

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