Become Your Own Publisher with ISSUU

Like many teachers I know, I am constantly looking for new ways to switch things up in the classroom. With the increase in 1:1 technology in the classrooms, for most teachers now, this means looking for ways we can use the technology at our students’ fingertips to produce content that is high quality and full of learning (the Common Core is pushing for this too!). This sprang to mind when I stumbled upon ISUU.

ISUU, which is a digital publishing website (with a free account option) allows for users to upload a document, such as a Word document or PDF, and convert it into a virtual magazine. It also encourages for users to search through these magazines, allowing for easy embedding and sharing as well. At face value, the site seems to be geared more towards companies and bigger publishers to deliver content in a digital format, as well the casual reader who has time to fill. As a teacher, however, this website offers limitless possibilities for publication of student work. Not only can students browse through the sites literary offerings for inspiration, they can post their work for their classmates to read as well. Can you imagine how powerful it would be to, at the beginning of a research project, flip through magazines made students that were once in your shoes? I love it and think it is awesome.

Check out my new digital book, via ISSUU, below! It combines all of my tutorials, resources, and a few of my blog posts, all in one, handy location!

Virtual Resource Book

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The Modern “ScanTron”

UPDATE: See my post on introducing GradeCam to my faculty for the 2014-2015 school year!

As a student, I dreaded ScanTron tests.  In high school, one of my classes was right across the hall from where the ScanTron grading machine was located, and I remember constantly hearing a noise, which can only be described as a machine gun-like, as the teachers shot the answer sheets through and the grader marked incorrect answers.  I never thought much of it until I was a first-year teacher myself, and my school was fortunate enough to have a ScanTron machine.  Each time I shot answer sheets through, I would cross my fingers, hoping for a “quiet” passage, cringing every time I heard that all too familiar rapid-fire of wrong answers being marked.

While I think ScanTrons are fairly common in high schools, they are much more rare at the lower levels.  When I worked in an elementary school, we did not have a ScanTron machine which, while not the end of the world, would have made the grading process for end of unit exams, much, much easier.  Many schools, in fact, are like this – there are teachers that, if they had this technology available to them (ScanTrons are fairly expensive and some schools can’t justify the cost), would most likely use it.  This is what lead me to find these two great programs, both of which attempt to solve the “ScanTron-less School” issue.

Created by a team of educators through a KickStarter fund, this website and iPhone/iPad app combination work similarly to a traditional ScanTron machine.  Teachers load students into the program, either through their mobile device or computers, and then print out the program’s unique answer sheets.  These answer sheets can be used in conjunction with any previsouly created test, quiz, or exam.  Teachers then use their mobile devices to scan the answer sheets.  Answers are uploaded directly to the program, allowing for teachers to see quiz item analysis, student progress, and download CSV files to upload to nearly any gradebook (their claim).

Pros:

  1. FREE to use
  2. up to 30 questions per quiz/test/exam
  3. iPhone/iPad app to scan answer sheets (from developer – Android app in development phase)
  4. item analysis and student progress can be accessed from phone or computer
  5. still in the beginning phases, so lots of new updates can, hopefully, be anticipated (confirmed by developer)

Cons:

  1. Answers need to be bubbled in extremely dark (think black pen or marker) to be scanned
  2. website is basic, although it gives all the needed information
  3. answer sheets need to be printed – making copies from a blank master sheet tends to not work well when it comes time to scan
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QuickKey answer sheet with bubbles filled in with heavy, black pen in order to register on the scanner.

This program has been around longer than Quick Key, so while the two programs essentially do the same thing, their website is more streamlined and offers a few more options.  With GradeCam, teachers load their students into the website and print off GradeCam’s custom answer sheets for students to fill out.  Answer sheets are graded by placing them under a camera attached to the computer – according to their website, most webcams or document cameras will work.  The camera scans the answers and the computer instantly grades the assignment.  The one notable aspect of GradeCam is that it has three access levels for its users – a basic, free package (limited to 10 questions a quiz, cannot export grades to gradebook), a mid level package ($15/month, limited to 100 questions a quiz, link CCSS to assignments, export to gradebook), or a school package ($2.50/student/year, same as mid-level package, with some additional features).

Pros:

  1. item analysis and student progress can be accessed through the website (also charts this data in graphs for you)
  2. user-friendly website
  3. Custom student ID numbers
  4. Can easily scan answer sheets with eraser marks or where bubbles are lightly filled in with pencil
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QuickCam answer sheets with bubbles that get progressively lighter – all were easily scanned into the system.

Cons:

  1. No mobile app, for either Android or iPhone/iPad
  2. free account limited to only 10 questions per assignment
  3. Additional (and beneficial) features, like exporting to a gradebook, are pay-only for $15/month

Do you use either of these program?  Do you know of one I missed?  Let me know in the comments section!

GoogleTreks – Exploring the World with just A Few Clicks

Google is constantly amazing me.  Honestly, if I wasn’t in the education field, I think I would want to work for Google, solely because of all of the really neat things they are continuously coming up with!

My newest Google obsession?  GoogleTreks.

Similar to a virtual field trip, visitors can explore unique and exotic locations using Google’s StreetView technology.  I included them in my Virtual FIeld Trip list below, however felt they deserved a post of their own.  My personal favorite is their Trek of Darwin’s Gallapagos Island.  You can click your way all throughout the island, and even take a “swim” with the sea lions off the coast.  It is truly one of the most unique web experiences I have ever seen.

Take a minute this Friday and explore a corner of the world that you might not have ever seen before – and keep checking back, because they are adding more (VENICE! coming soon!).  Tell me your favorite destinations in the comments below!

Socrative – Saving Time, Adding Fun

Like I mentioned in my post about GoogleForms and Flubaroo, grading assignments was never something I thoroughly enjoyed and I love anything (or anyone!) that helps me streamline and save time.  And if that thing that saves me time with grading also brings a fun dynamic to my classroom, I love it even more.  This is precisely why one of my new favorite sites is Socrative.com!

Socrative is a “smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classroom through a series of educational games and exercises via smartphones, laptops, and tablets” (www.socrative.com).  It works similarly to other classroom response systems, however, and this is the feature I love the most, it can be used with nearly any device you and your students can get a hold of.  The program can be run solely on computers or solely on mobile devices using either the Internet browser or their app.  The website’s interface is extremely intuitive to use, making it easy for any teacher to hit the ground running with implementing it in their classrooms.

Socrative has several pre-loaded activities, as well as activities that can be filled with your own quiz, test, or activity questions.  The program will grade your students’ work for you, providing you with downloadable reports that you can use to easily input grades into online grade books.  You can even turn quizzes into a “Space Race” game, where teams of students can compete together to generate the most correct quiz answers.

I hope you can take a minute to check out their site and this video – they really show just how awesome this program is!  When you are ready to get started in your own classroom, check out my step-by-step tutorial to help you get going! 

Why the Internet is Like the Mall – Discussing Online Safety With Students

When teaching with tech, you can never talk about Internet safety enough. This great post from “Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension” gives a great way to frame this discussion with your students as the new school year gets under way.

Another cross posting from my other blog, this one has taken on a life of its own, with others putting their own spin on it.  When we discuss internet safety, it is vital that we are able to relate it to students’ lives, so that they can understand that being behind a computer does not mean that they are protected.  While I am not in the business of scaring students, there are plenty of other ways that can happen, we can stress the importance of proper behavior.  And thus this lesson came about; linking the internet to going to the mall.

I believe in the importance of honest conversation with the kids, where they supply the answers, rather than me hitting them over the head with it.  I simply started out this lesson by writing the words “Internet Safety” on my whiteboard and turned to the kids.  They volunteered what these…

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#MysterySkype is Back!

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With the new school year beginning, Skype has opened up registration for its very fun and unique Mystery Skype program!

With this program, two registered classrooms are connected via Skype and the aim of the game is to figure out where each other is located, 20 Questions style.  Not only does this give your students a hands on approach to using geography, but it also opens up the possibility of future pen-pal communications between the two classrooms.

Prior to this year, Mystery Skype was something that was, in theory, open to anyone and left to the individual involved to organize.  With the increase in the program’s popularity, Skype is starting a new community just for schools.  The program is open to all classrooms and teachers can register HERE to be notified when it is up and running (soon!).

Want to prep for your own Mystery Skype experience?  Search #mysteryskype on Twitter or check out the links below!

BLOG POST: So You Want to Do Mystery Skype?

Flubaroo: A Teacher’s Best Friend

Grading is the worst.

Now, I think that most teachers out there would agree with me.  We got into this career in the first place because we love working with kids – not because we love taking home pile of worksheets and tests to correct each night.  As I got further into my teaching career and began a masters degree program, I began to look for ways to cut down on my grading time because, between extra-curriculars, curriculum planning, my own grad school homework, and the, ever so precious and elusive, personal/social life, I just didn’t have hours and hours to spend grading worksheet after worksheet.  I would often fantasize and talk with the other teachers about how, if I won the lottery, I would personally pay for someone to do my grading for me.  If only I new then what I know now…

A few months ago, as I was doing some prep research for a professional development workshop I was co-hosting on Google Apps for Education, I came across Flubaroo.  I was instantly hooked!  Flubaroo is a script that runs in Google Spreadsheets that will grade assignments for you.  For example, I could make a quiz using Google Forms.  The student responses to the quiz would automatically get put into a Google Spreadsheet.  I would then run the Flubaroo script, and it would instantly grade the quiz for me.

Awesome, right?

Even better, the Flubaroo script will even email students their grades, including general teacher feedback and an answer key.  The script is by far one of the most useful tricks I have found in Google Apps for Education and one that I love telling other teachers about because, who doesn’t love to save some time and have their grading done for them?!

Want to try Flubaroo for yourself?  First check out my Google Forms tutorial to make a quiz or an assignment.  Then, use my Flubaroo tutorial to guide you as to how to grade it.  Happy creating!