Tech Review: Synergyse

Our district technology e-coach is counting down the days til her maternity leave (congrats Alisha!) and in the meantime, life must go on at the 22 schools she lovingly provides excellent tech support.  My building has received the account information for our students and we’re ready to help them set up their Google accounts!  One problem, Alisha has training modules for them, but no way for us to confirm all the students have gone through the training.  Me, not being one to sit idly by, started looking for a way to at least have training at their fingertips.  I asked over at Google+ Classroom community and it was suggested I try Synergyse.  There does NOT appear to be a way to assess or track who is doing the training, but at least the training is there for them to use.

I think this might work.  Adding the extension to a Chrome browser allows anyone to have training on the fly as the soon as they open any Google app.  I’m using the free trial right now and will get permission to add it to some of the lab computers, so, as students begin creating docs, when they get stuck, an answer is right there for them.  The education upgrade is $10/teacher and all students free.  I’ll let the IT director know, it might be a good investment for the district.

Check out how it works below.

Compliment Chairs, Character Building, and Connections

First full week of school finished! I’m exhausted; you know, that “first week of school, dammit why do I do this to myself every year, I need to get on with my life, ugh” kind of exhausted. It was a good week. After several years of students who were forced to bring their personal issues to school everyday and had a hard time taking what they were doing seriously (most of which have, now in high school, turned that corner and are doing MUCH better), this group of students have these lovely little halos on all the time, more than half of them think smiling is a good thing and all of them actually give a damn about their educations. I sense I’m in the Twilight Zone. Continue reading

Ask the Kids…

The never ending discussion on why children in the United States aren’t as “smart” as children in other countries has been rehashed a thousand times.  Its been looked at from all angles.  Blame has been placed at the feet of half a dozen entities.  Everyone has tackled the issue, been asked about it, except…. the kids.

One journalist considered this.  She decided to ask the kids… what are “they” doing right, and “we” doing wrong?  Here’s the answer:

Redesigning My Learning Space

Its time to get back to the grind.  I’ve considered my online learning space, how it is set up, what I want students and parents to be able to access in that space and how accessible it is to anyone entering it.

I went into my classroom last week and grumbled to myself quietly as I thought about doing the same with the physical learning space my students would inhabit for the next 9 months. My classroom is approximately 25 ft by 20 ft.  Not a huge room but a nice sized one.  It was recently completely remodeled from the floor up and is as modern as an urban district with money issues could make it.  There are 15 -2person benches, 4 desktop computer stations, a lab bench with running water and electricity, a couple of nice side counter spaces, and plenty of cabinet storage space. I also have a desk station with portable file cabinet and computer cart. Continue reading

My Battle Cry: Keep Them Alive…

Strength-Quotes-5Some teacher friends and I have been on Facebook the last few days reflecting on our summer break and our children out there.  The topic eventually turned to those children who won’t be in classes this year.  Those children are dead. Continue reading

Designing My Virtual Space

I have piloted various products as I’ve flipped my class over the years, all with varied success.  What I am looking for is a way to create a flex book of the learning I want my students to experience.  I want this flex book to be easily accessible by students and parents.  I want the flex book on a website that can be easily managed and maintained.  I think I might finally have it all.

As mentioned in my post on Versal, I like that app! It will hold my flex book platform this year.  Using CK-12 content (under their Creative Commons cert, of course) and adding my own content, I hope to build a “living, breathing” learning environment for my students.  I’ve spent the summer in an online class learning how to design an online/blended course and will be finishing that up this week.  I have learned how to choose a website platform for it all, an LMS to manage it, the various tools to create and disseminate the learning and this week, how to assess it all. Continue reading

Bricks and Clicks: Mastering the Fine Art of Blended Learning

Nine years ago, I had a very interesting freshman class in a small charter school with approximately 100 high schoolers. 30 kids in the class, 7 desk top computers, prescribed online lessons through a reputable program I liked, a nice textbook… and free reign to do what I damned well pleased.  It was heaven, except for 2 things… or people to be exact.  “Don” was suffering from a medical condition that had his doctors perplexed.  He was in the hospital 3 weeks of of 4 every month.  “Jaleen” tested into a Associates degree program at the local community college and was gone 4 days out of 5 every week. Continue reading

Tech Review: Versal

I have, on and off, been looking for a platform to create clean, crisp, flipped lessons to cover the first three levels of Bloom’s taxonomy (know, understand, apply) without having to create a entire website.  It hasn’t been an easy search, but, I think I may have finally found something I can use this year.

Beyond text, video, images and quizzes, Versal offers an array of customizable and interactive gadgets – so learning is not only effective but fun.  ~http://versal.com

Continue reading

Poverty and the 21st Century Classroom

On my school’s staff blog this summer, there have been some interesting topics discussed.  One that has always been nudging me to find answers to in my classroom is poverty.

My coworker, Jacque, wrote a two part examination of how we, as teachers can and SHOULD consider the socioeconomic statuses of our students.  We never really know what is going on with them, do we?  Unless a parent comes in and tells us they’re unemployed, or that they’re only working part time and can’t pay for a field trip or get supplies for their child, we never really know. Continue reading

Tech Review: Piktochart

So, as I was ripping down all the ancient posters of various sorts in my classroom the last couple of days of school, I wondered if it were possible for me to create new ones – updated ones – for the fall. I’ve wanted to learn how to create infographics also and though perhaps the combination of the two would work if I could print out the graphics as posters. Continue reading