Monday, November 28, 2011


I use google docs for collaboration quite regularly both in school and outside of school. However, as a middle school teacher, one problem that I face with google docs for student use is that you need an email (preferably a gmail account, though not necessary) account to participate or even read or have access to the documents created. The collaborative aspect of google docs is great, but since you need to know the email of the person or persons with whom you'd like to share, this can become a problem for sharing with students. So, I searched a bit and found a bunch of similar collaborative forums where students might collaborate on a document through a web link.

One of these sites is called TitanPad, a basic web-based word processor that allows collaborators to see changes to a document in real-time. There are no email accounts needed, though it is possible to share via email. Once you have started a new "pad" you are given a web link to send out via email or post onto a webpage. Users will simply go to the website and read and even add to the document. A quick example is the one I started and can be viewed at Your students can view and even add or change the document. Each new member will receive a different color to distinguish his/her changes.

This forum would be extremely useful for students who are writing together. They can start a new document or import a template or their document already in progress. They can access the document from home or from the classroom and then can export the document in order to save it as a file. As a teacher, I could use this in a science lab, for example to create a data table for students to add to as they collect data at lab stations. Each group could then see the data added to the document. And, I could create a separate link for each of my individual science classes.


Collaboration opportunities on the web abound! However, I continue to find that I and other teachers need access to web 2.0 applications that do not require emails and/or passwords to access. Another collaborative site with an etherpad, though with many more collaborative features is called Twiddla. This is a jump on and go site. Once you have gone on to the website, simply begin a new meeting and then you can begin. You can type, draw, put up post-it messages, upload your own documents, images and even webpages. A great feature with Twiddla is that once you create a whiteboard, you can save it as a screen shot and access it from Twiddla at a later time.

For an example of a whiteboard that I created, once again for students to collect data collaboratively in a science lab setting, see the url that was provided when I started this whiteboard... Students simply need to be given the url and they can begin adding to it - no email addresses or passwords needed! Now, the board is technically public and anyone could access it. But, this also means that students can access it at a later date and a different location as well.

I need to play with Twiddla a bit more to discover its true capabilities, but one cool note about it..... Check out this great feature... "Don't forget that we're still Free for Educational Uses! Sign up for a Free Trial, then send us an email from a .edu address (or whatever screwy extention they use in your land), and we'll hook you with a Pro account free of charge. We're at Be sure to include your username!"


Screencast is a wonderful way to upload content to a website that won't upload in it's original format. I've used Screencast mostly for uploading and publishing Jings and other movies from youtube that would not be accessible at school otherwise.


Jings are a great way to share information with others. Sometimes, you want to take screen images that you can't access at school and still use them as part of a larger presentation. Sometimes, you want to share information about how to access or perform something on the computer and you need a visual. Jing is your answer.

Jing is software, it's not web based, so you have to download it. When using Jing, you have a 5 minute maximum in which to convey your screencast. You can do as many 5 minute casts as you'd like, but they max out at 5 minutes. This is first seen as a drawback, but really is a benefit since learning is much more easily tolerated in short bursts--even for colleagues and other adults.

Jing is a TechSmith product and be downloaded here:

For what you'll do with it, stick to the free version!


Exploratree is a great site for finding and printing graphic organizers. You can even make your own!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Welcome to, a place where I can post tutorials and information about upcoming meetings for my soon to be real Geocaching Club at Folly Quarter Middle School.

In the future, I plan to affiliate with companies that provide geocaching equipment such as Otterbox containers, Geocoins, Travel Bugs, and of course, GPS units.

Check out and the associated Facebook page and Twitter feed.

WordPress for Clubs

One of my favorite hobbies to do in the warmer months of the year is to Geocache. Many of you may not have heard of geocaching before, but its a great way to get outdoors with a purpose. I like to hike, but sometimes just going for a walk is not motivating enough. With geocaching, you're looking for hidden things out in nature. There are a could different versions of geocaching: most notably traditional caching where other people hide small containers throughout an area and then post the coordinates online. Then people can post questions or comments when they have found the cache. There's also benchmarking which I have yet to really try, but instead of finding things placed by others,you are trying to find "benchmarks" placed by the USGS when towns and cities are built.

The idea of using technology to get outdoors has been gaining speed for the last ten years. There are 1,265,747 active caches and an estimated 4-5 million geocachers worldwide according to is the premiere website for geocaching in the US and also operates apps for the iPhone and Droid. Here is a link and screenshot to show the interact-ability of the website: You may have to log in to see the discussion board part of things, so here's a picture:

One of the reasons that I've written all this is because I want to show you a companion site for my website that I have created called I have used wordpress to create this blog. How does geocaching connect to my classroom you may very well be wondering?

Well, a few years ago for Outdoor Education, I created a 90 minute Geocaching 101 class for our 6th graders to learn how to use technology to get out into nature. Over the years, I've had students inquire about a Geocaching club (that would have to meet offsite of school grounds) and this website, Geocaching360 is the first step in making this affiliate club a reality.

After we read about Facebook in first grade, I made a post saying that I had contemplated the idea this past summer, but hadn't gotten it off the ground. Today I went onto Facebook to create a page for my class (not necessarily to use this year, but to see what it could be like next year). However, I didn't want my regular facebook account to be the host for my students, so I selected that I did not have a facebook account and put in my school email address (public to my students anyway). Facebook said that they were sending a confirmation email to the address given, but it never came.

I really do not want to use my existing account to host this page, but I have set up a temporary one to play around with it's features. I have invited some of my cohort-classmates to join so that I can learn about the conversation aspects of the group site.

Has anyone else tried to make a new Fbook account using a school email address and failed as I have?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

WordPress "Blogs" As Websites

My fiance, Ron, is something of a small-time web entrepreneur. He first found WordPress and subsequently showed me how to use it. Last year, after becoming increasingly frustrated with TeacherWeb (and its $42 pricetag this year) I bought a domain name of my own and set up shop using WordPress. Though it has many bells and whistles, it's very easy to navigate and use to make webpages. Though I do get criticism for not using TeacherWeb ("like all the other teachers here") I plan on using WordPress to deliver information to my students and parents of students throughout the year.

WordPress is free. To use it, you need a domain name and some hosting capabilities. Since I host it out of our own private domain hosting membership, I do not know if the county can host it for you, but I bet they can.

Check out my WordPress Blogsite:

I'd love to hear any feedback you have about the site (esp ideas or constructive criticism). Thanks!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Today I created a Prezi info sheet to use with my students when we do our Alternate Energy projects in February.

I'm including screenshots here but I don't know how to provide you the file to download. Ideas?

I know, it's a busy document. And I'd love you to check it out and let me know of any errors. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Prezi Example to Show Students

What do you think? Do you/would you use Prezi?

Here's the introduction for my Alternate Energy Resources. I'll show this to the students before beginning the project in the middle of February.

Facebook in 6th Grade

At the beginning of this school year, I contemplated opening a Facebook page for my class. I wouldn't use my own personal Facebook account to open in--instead I'd use my HCPSS account to open it and never connect to it personally. I thought this would be a great way to get the students to ask questions about things they don't understand, post interesting information, and work together. However, as you all know, the HCPSS system blocks Facebook from being used inside the classroom. A few years ago Facebook worked if you added the S to http:// and you were able get on in very limited use. This was the major drawback for using Facebook at school--not actually being able to use Facebook AT school. In the article we just read, I absolutely love the idea of students posting brief synopses of the class, listing the homework, and asking thought provoking questions of their classmates. I often wonder...Will Facebook ever be available at school as the county pushes for more technology in the classroom? Will there ever be a way for teacher accounts to access it but prevent student accounts from accessing it.

What do you think the answers to these questions are?

In my next post I will send you the link for the Facebook page I'm about to set up for possible use next year (introducing anything mid-year is disastrous, as far as I've found).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Prezi for showing connections between body systems!

At the end of the second quarter, students in 7th grade will have covered 7 body systems. By the end of February, they will have covered three more. For a middle schooler, this is a lot of content in a short amount of time! This year I will be trying something new when we're done our body systems unit--a Prezi. Students will be completing a Prezi to show the information that they've learned over the previous 12 weeks. This will allow them to connect the body systems together to show how each one works with a variety of the others.

As I develop the documents for this project over the next few weeks, I will be sure to post them here. I will also post an example of a Prezi, but I will not make one that details the body systems. I have found in the past that showing my students a project example in the same vein as what I want from them allows them to copy it exactly and leave all creativity out of the equation. Developing a Prezi for a different topic will allow them to see how it works, but will leave the task up to them.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Though I haven't used XtraNormal with my classes (yet!), I did make a video for our last class which, incase you want to watch again and again, I have posted here. Wow, that was a run on sentences wasn't it?

During our Alternate Resources unit in early March, we have our students advocate the use of one alternate energy source. In the past, I have used iMovie (mixed reviews), Powerpoint (they were junk), and a hand made, hand drawn brochure (the current medium, and least likely to end in yucky work.) This year, I am tempted to ask the students to make XtraNormal PSAs. Though early March is past the timeline of this class, I hope to have a student or two make a few of these for reviews for quizzes. If we do that, I'll of course post it here.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Web 2.0 Technologies

Hello All!
The first of a couple of Web 2.0 Technologies that I want to introduce you to is XtraNormal. You got a taste of XtraNormal with some projects in the final days of the last class. I think many of you would be surprised to see how easy and quick it is to create a short animated clip out of nothing besides text. In less than 10 minutes you could create a project to share with students.
This is a tool that could work well for students because there aren't a bunch of bells and whistles with the free starter version. There aren't many options to change and there aren't many options available with the free service. Visit to do a quick run through. Some pointers are below:

1. You choose one of 7 possible "themes" for your animated project. If you decide to change your theme later, this can be done effortlessly.

2. You have a choice of one or two "actors." These actors are robotic renditions of people, dogs, bears, office personnel, sketches, or for a little more money, celebrities and TV stars. Choosing one or two actors determines whether or not your project will be a monologue or a dialogue between two categories.

3. After choosing your theme and actors, all that's left to do is add your script. Just start typing in the textbox. When you want the other actor (if you chose two) to speak, hit the plus sign (+) and begin typing for the other actor. Go back and forth as much as you would like. As I have used the site, I have never noticed a limit to the amount of time your project can be.

4. Messing with the settings can take a bunch of time, but lucky for you, there's an autopilot method for camerawork. You can choose your camera angles or you can set it for auto and let the internet do your directing for you!

5. You can add music, special effects, and emotions to your characters. When you are done, play a preview for your project. Change the wording as necessary to make for smooth transitions in this text-to-speech world that you've just created.

6. Once complete, you can render your project and post it on youtube or leave it on the XtraNormal site for future viewing.

7. Enjoy!