Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Class Dojo

A fellow blogger's post on Class Dojo got me thinking about my use of the Class Dojo app this year.  I had heard about it in our DCIU tech inservice last year, and loaded it on lower teacher ipads.  I know some of you signed up for the service, but I'm not sure how many of you went beyond that to actually try it out, so let me share my experience.  I've used it all year in science and I'd have to say that I give it a thumbs up and will definitely use it again next year.  I spent some time at the beginning of the year setting up class lists as well as positive behaviors that I look for in science, such as "on task,"  "quick and quiet transition" and "great question or connection."  Once I had Dojo set up, it became quick and easy to open the app up during class and note either individual or whole group behaviors that I could reinforce with points.  The students particularly liked designing their own avatar.  There were a couple surprises during the year - one when the developers "updated" the app and got rid of many of the features near and dear to my heart.  Amazingly, the feedback that I and others gave them was responded to very quickly - within a month they addressed those issues and made the app even easier to use.  Another little surprise was when I discovered that Dojo was sending a weekly report home to any parent who registered their email with Dojo!  I like the idea that parents are hearing from me, I just didn't realize I was doing so.  If anyone is interested in setting up Class Dojo for next year, I'd be happy to spend some time with them in August to set the system up.   Dojo has put together a playlist of teachers talking about how they use Dojo that you can access below.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Book Creator - How to enhance and extend

We're working on Book Creator ebooks in Susan North's room based on the students' research of an animal.  I am always amazed at how these children who struggle to write connected text on a google doc happily engross themselves in creating ebooks on the same topic.  I know that some of the appeal is the graphic component - some of them would wile away the minutes selecting fonts, sizes, and colors, but as we near the end of the school year and students are running out of steam, it is satisfying to see them so engaged in book creation.  I've been following the Book Creator blog, and found a post on an Irish teacher who works with a class of autistic students.  He has taken Book Creator to the next level - publishing students' books in the iBooks store for others to download.  Much to his surprise, the students have gotten over 1,000 downloads from 19 countries!  I'd love to try publishing some of ours as we get more comfortable with Book Creator, thus giving our students an authentic audience.  And I also like the idea of becoming an authentic audience for others by downloading and reading student created works (see below as an example), which we can then rate and comment on.  Other ideas for enhancing and extending?  I'd love to hear from you.

Power Out
Check out one of his student's Minecraft-inspired books Power Out at the iBooks store!

Google Searches

I've started subscribing to the Gooru newsletter,  which gives "tips, tricks, and tools" for all things google, and came across this helpful post on 12 Google Search Tricks you probably didn't know.  I particularly liked the tip that you can use quotes and a subtraction sign to remove any words you don't want included in the search - for example "Titanic-movie."   I also recently set up a Google custom search for my space colony research project because I didn't want the students getting bogged down in highly technical websites.  I was amazed at how easy it was to set up!  If you'd like to know how, I'd be happy to show you, or you can check out this description.   Do you have any good Google search tricks?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Book Creator

Lately I've noticed the problem that if I try to post a google doc into book creator, I get all the HTML code along with the text.  Book Creator support person Dan Kemp got back to me within a day of my emailing the question to him (thanks, Dan!) and provided me with a link to his blog post on the issue.  Turns out it's a google issue, not a Book Creator issue, hopefully one they will address soon.  Dan has a suggested workaround, although not practical for us as it is difficult to delete the google doc app on the student ipads.   I'll let you know if I hear any more helpful hints.  In the meantime, I'm happy that I discovered the Book Creator blog.   Also, if you scroll down to the bottom of the blog, there's a place for you to sign up for a Book Creator newsletter.
Book Creator app | Blog  

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

For the News Aficionado (thank goodness for spell check!)

I know that some of you enjoy featuring current events in your classroom - I thought of you when I discovered The Learning Network blog.  This blog is an educational outreach of the New York Times.  It provides bite-sized bits of information about the news (usually with a link to the original NYT article), stunning photography, thoughtful questions, and news quizzes.   I must confess that I scrolled past the Weekly News Quiz post and the How Green are You? post and clicked on Test Yourself/The Royal Baby's Name.  Sigh.  My shallowness appalls me.
The Learning Network - Teaching and Learning With The New York Times
  Thanks to Sarah Muthler for alerting me to the site in her post Classroom inspiration: 15 great websites for Elementary Educators!