Saturday, September 3, 2011

Remind101 - Text Messaging Service

Remind101 is a Text Messaging service that allows teachers to easily setup classrooms to text message students and parents and remind them of events, homework, and/or to study for an important test.  Using the service is simple because is allows you to provide students a code for each class that you set up.  They can then text that code and will be added to your list. 

Based on my previous post this seems like the best way to use cell phone technology outside the classroom.  I have the information of my students who get text messages, but have not had time to do anything with it.  With this service, it takes out the step of logging the information into an excel spreadsheet and then into my email when I would use something like TextServ.

Give Remind101 a try, and to learn more, watch the videos below.  And as always, read the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

Remind101 from remind101 on Vimeo.

remind101 tutorial from remind101 on Vimeo.

Friday, September 2, 2011

My Student's Used Their Cell Phones in Class....GASP!

Yesterday it finally happened....I allowed students to use their cell phones as part of a lesson I was doing in class.  Something frowned upon in several schools across the country.  The use of the cell phones was minimal, as I will explain below, but it was a freeing experience trying something that last time I was in the classroom I never would have thought about doing.

The lesson was on Population Density.  I was explaining to the students how density can be vital in understanding various aspects of human geography.  High density can help explain crime rates, pollution, innovation, etc.  The opposite COULD be true about low density countries.  Within the lesson was an activity where students were to calculate the population density of several countries.

As I was explaining the assignment and doing a sample, it happened...
"Mr. Zimmer, can we use the calculators on our phones?" 
Without a thought, I replied with a resounding, "Sure." 
I had some calculators that I borrowed from the math department, but not enough that could type in digits for statistics that were in the hundreds of millions and even billions.  In previous years, I would have said no, but at the same time, phones and iPods with good calculators did not exist a few years ago, and not nearly as numerous.  So I found myself adapting to the generation of students I had.  Of course at the same time, the pressure was on me now to monitor the students and ensure that the phones were being used in a proper manner. 

I have to say that it was a great first experience.  I was always worried about students getting off task with them, but like all classrooms, if you just walk around the room and keep students guessing where you will step next, they will stay on the task you require to avoid getting in trouble.

No issues, no problems, and a successful experience using a technology that is readily available to so many students of this generation, yet banned in so many classrooms.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Putting EdTech into Practice - Document Camera

After two years of helping teachers utilize a document camera and providing ideas for how they could use them, it became my turn when I got back into the classroom.  Unfortunately the classroom setup is a little odd, but utilizing other tools, I am able to use the camera in an effective manner with my students.

I am a fan of my document camera and you can learn more about the model I use and ways to use one by reading some blog posts about it. Granted I have not completely reached full potential with its use in the classroom, but I am getting to the point where I or my students use one everyday.

Below are some of the ways that I have been using the Document Camera in the classroom:
1.) I had students graph data related to population growth in the United States.  I was able to easily go through the procedures on how to label the graph by placing it under the document camera.  I also was able to take graphs from previous classes and showcase them so that students had a good idea of what I was looking for.  Using the image capture I took pictures of them so that I have them for later.

2.) Students are always asking "What page is that on?"  Using the document camera I am able to easily show the page to the students, and highlight the area they should be looking.  It has been great when discussing images and charts that are in the book...something that was much more difficult when I did not have one.

3.) I gave a test and when I was done grading the test I was able to share the various levels of responses with the classes and obscure the name of whose test it was.  Students were then able to see what I was and was not looking for in their answers.  With transparencies that was possible to do, but it was time consuming.

4.) Every handout that I use I could easily display a copy on the board for my students to utilize.

5.) Instead of having students answer questions aloud, I have students come to the board as they are working and "write" responses to questions that they have completed and then as a class we can discuss them.

I have realized that the best aspect of a Document Camera is the ability to view larger what my students are also looking at.  It makes discussing topics much easier and more beneficial in engaging my students.

How are you using a Document Camera?