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November 2014
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PostHeaderIcon Edmodo vs. Schoology

 

LMS examples

Image Source: http://bit.ly/1yzQxj8

Learning Management Systems are a big part of the Flipped Classroom movement.  However, you do not have to use a flipped classroom to utilize these tools.  Some are free and others are paid such as Blackboard.  Meeting and interacting with students online is important.  Facebook is bad word in education and therefore has not been utilized as a way to interact with students and teachers.  I have tried many different ways to utilize interactive sites.  Websites, Blackboard, Moodle, and the list goes on.  Two of the most popular from my experience are Edmodo and Schoology.  Both are great but it depends on what you will use them for.  Therefore I thought I would do a little bit of a compare and contrast on their use for Libraries.  Just because some of use do not have traditional classes does not mean that would could not use such a tool.  

Edmodo - this is a website that uses a simplified version of Facebook.  It can be used in the classroom to connect with students and even as a location for students to turn in work.  There is a both a social aspect and assessment.  Quizes, grades, and attendance can be completed using this site.  It is completely free.  The only cost would be if you chose to add apps to the website that have a cost.  I used this site last year for all of my clubs and library assistants called iStaff.  I found the students tended to forget to check outside of meetings.  Though a couple of teachers have started to use it so I think its use will become habitual.  If a student has a smartphone they can access the tool.

Pros:

  • Easy to use Facebook like functionality
  • Easy to give feedback to students
  • Creation of Polls to interact quickly with students
  • Very little introduction for students
  • Creation of small groups within a class
  • Ability to post information to the group
  • Ability to submit assignments
  • Attendance recording
  • Grading and Badges
  • iOS & Android Apps
  • Parent Access
  • Calendar
Post Example of Edmodo

Image Source: SMS Edmodo Site

Cons:

  • iPad app is a little cumbersome.  Uploading files is a fair amount of steps
  • Posts are only chronological so the board can get messy
  • Parents do not see the same things as students
  • Students can start to use the posts for social interaction (Hi messages then become cumbersome)
  • Quizes are limiting and I would use Google Forms instead
  • No messaging between students
  • Child-like

Schoology

The site takes some of the functionality of blackboard and Edmodo.  I think of it as the big brother of Edmodo.  I think Edmodo is perfect for elementary and early middle school and then upper middle school and high school would graduate to Schoology.  It is very similar to what students will use in College even if they do not take online classes.  

Pros

  • Updates (Posts) and Discussion Boards
  • Discussion boards with nested discussion
  • Settings for Tests and Quizes (Time Limits & Retakes)
  • Groups and Apps
  • Ability to setup modules or lessons (with materials) within a class or group
  • Calendar syncs with Google Calendar
  • Dropbox like feature for assignments
  • Online Gradebook and Attendance
  • Ability to track students usage
  • Email and SMS text notifications to keep everyone up to date
  • Announcement:  Brings the message to the top of the Updates list
  • Create Blogs within the product
  • Embedding Videos
  • Google Docs Synced

Cons

  • No small group creation options
  • Takes more time to learn and teach students
  • Long student access codes
  • No messaging between students (could be a pro as well)
  • It connects your class as a ‘course’ not a ‘class’. This makes it easier for high school teachers, but for my single class, students became confused as to where they needed to go for their assignments, discussion boards etc.
Pictures of Discussion Board on Schoology.com

Image Source: My Schoology Group

In the end the LMS that you choose will depend entirely on what the students need.  Schoology is my choice due to the functionality of the site.  I can do so much more with the site and organizationally speaker it works for me.  It makes sense to me.  I really gave Edmodo a fair shot and used it the entire year but I found it to be a bit too social for my needs.  I encourage collaboration and interaction of course.  But in the end the purpose the LMS is clear – to convey information, interact with it, and further the knowledge journey.  

PostHeaderIcon PBL & Librarians

Wordle on Project Based Learning

Image Source: http://bit.ly/1sYAhVL

I have had quite a few teachers collaborating with me this summer.  It is the first time I have been 4 years in the same place and it is pretty exciting.  I have a good idea of who I will be connecting with and what my year will look like.  Of course the projects are always changing but I am feeling great.

Librarianship in schools and really anywhere is all about collaboration and innovation.  If you are not changing you are sure to loose your position and (gasp) perhaps the library itself.  We all have seen the results of libraries that have lost their librarians.  It is true sadness.  Project-Based Learning is a door into something oldish and new again.  What is PBL but authentic inquiry-based experiences.  We are experts in inquiry.  In fact when I first started working on PBL I thought I was doing it wrong because it came so naturally to me.  Of course there were a few new buzz words and techniques but overall it is a inquiry experience.

I decided to take the 4 day training in PBL at the end of May (very scary with so many projects going on) but I felt I needed to be a leader in the conversation.  The only way I could do that was to have the information for my teachers who were going to be struggling as to what this “new” PBL learning meant.  Luckily we have a very supportive BOCES (regional information center of sorts) who gave us  an amazing amount of training and experience (@Pshaw63 @joanne_keim @dpawlewicz).  I walked out of that training ready to go with a project.  In fact I put the project into practice in June. I know crazy crazy.  But I really wanted to try it out.

Impressions:  Students were extremely engaged.  A big part of the process is voice and choice to make the experience authentic.  Another thing I did was to make the groups myself.  Students did work in groups of 2 but they did not choose the groups.  This made a big difference.  I tended to put students who were troublesome together and boy let me tell you they really did amazing things.  They no longer could depend on the “good” student to do the work for them.  Also by putting “good” students together I could focus my time on those students that needed aid and help.

Suggestion:  Join the conversation.  Do not be afraid to connect with your teachers outside the library.  It is really about the students and I will do just about anything to help the students grow and innovate.

PostHeaderIcon EasyBib & Google Addons

 

Easybib Icon

Image Source: http://bit.ly/1yePTHL

EasyBib is a great app and it has recently been included in Google Docs Addons.  Addons are a recent addition to Google Docs and a great one.  I can only assume that more addons will be added in the future.  Students can easily add their citations in their papers with the add on.  The addon allows students to stay in the same window.  You are able to achieve a lot with the free version.  The paid version gives you more options including taking notes.  Though I will review Evernote very soon and I am starting to prefer this to noodletools and other notetaking sites.

Citation is the bread and butter of librarianship along with research.  Anything to make the process easier for students is key for me.  Bibliographies and giving credit is a big problem for students.  It is imperative for us, as teacher librarians, to instill in students an understanding of digital ownership.  If we are going to go to Google Images use creativecommons.org.  Okay, I am off my soapbox.

EasyBib is an app that takes the wonderful free citation creator website and repackages it as an app.  You can keep track of your bibliography and email it to yourself and it is even easier with the addon.  It is very easy to use on an iPad because you can save to the app and access later if you are logged in.  Three styles are included on the site: MLA, APA, and Chicago/Turabian (however to use all the types you have to pay).  (From Appstore: Create accurate MLA, APA, and Chicago style citations in seconds by scanning a book bar code or by typing the name of a book. Build and manage your works cited. Once done, email your citations and then export your citations to EasyBib.com’s popular bibliography management service.)  The scanning of the barcode is exciting to me.  It is also a GoogleApp.  Your Google Administrator can add it to your Google Apps account.  The App is free and has MLA styling.  

There are, of course, other options out there including:  Oregon School Library Information System (OSLIS) Citation Maker

 

PostHeaderIcon Google Forms @ Lib

Google Forms Library EditionVery quickly during my first year at the middle school level I discovered the need to automate the pass system.  In the past study hall teachers gave permission for a few students to come during each period.  This was problematic because I was transitioning the library into a learning commons model.  I wanted and still want to create self-directed learners and all students would need access to the library by their own choice.  Putting the power into the hands of the students continues to be important to me.

Google Sign Up

This is how students sign into the computer.

Although students do forget to sign up for the library there are still ways for them to gain access.  They can get a project pass (from the teacher they have a project with) or come on a ten minute pass to get a book.  All students go into the google spreadsheet which is accessible from the library website to anyone (staff and student alike).

I have around 150-200 students coming to the library every day during various periods.  Mistakes do happen and occasionally a student’s name is missed on the morning list.  I do require that students sign-up by 7:20 in the morning in order for me to aggregate the data for the coming day.  It is amazing how many students sign up at 7:19!  I have looked at other programs to sign up students but currently Google Forms is the best.  My only complaint would be that I cannot cut off the number that sign up for a given period.  I have tried to use the script for course registration that is in Google Scripts but it does not function correctly.  If there are any javascript experts out there please comment.  I have limited space for the students but thus far the numbers work.

As you can see the Google Spreadsheet the students come in to cross their name out is not the same as the spreadsheet created with a Google Form.  I do have to create an additional spreadsheet.  However, once it is created the entire sorting process in the morning takes at most 10 minutes.  I have even done it in five on a busy morning (what morning is not busy :))  I can see the revision history so if any funny business goes on it is easily viewable.  I can access the spreadsheet from any computer or device.

The form itself can be viewed here and it is embedded into my website.  The students can add this link to their devices and can sign up in the library.  One of my catalog computers has been turned into a sign up machines/catalog.  Most students use that computer to sign up.  I am working on getting the students to use it beyond the library.  Interestingly I did see a student the other day signing up in their study halls.  That was great…I want students to be self-sufficient.

PostHeaderIcon Marketing & CCLS

Although the Common Core is here to stay at least for now it is more important that every for librarians to continue to market themselves.  We have Common Core and inquiry-based learning written across out foreheads.  AASL’s Standards for the 21st Century Learner was in effect long before Common Core was a glimmer in the distance.

I have found it effective to use the students who have ownership of the library.  I have created videos about how the students use the library for the school board.  I also attend as many professional developments with the teachers that I am able so I can talk in their language.  In New York especially with the rise of the required research paper this falls in the purview of the librarian.  Even if you cannot directly collaborate with the teachers providing resources and being available is key.

Create an online newsletter that is sent out monthly to the staff.  Include tools the teachers can use to make CCLS compliance a little easier.  MailChimp is a great free website to use for professional looking newsletters.  If you have less than 2000 subscribers and less than 12,0000 emails per month then it is free.  Presenting at Faculty Meetings even if it is a 1 minute website highlight or a new database that can help teachers find primary source documents.

“MailChimp is an email marketing service provider, founded in 2001. It has 3.5 million users that collectively send over 4 billion emails a month through the service.” (Wikipedia)

Once you have the newsletter setup it is very quick to just add information when you want to use it.  In fact I plan to use this monthly for my own school.  I was excited to find it because I had been sporadically sending out information to staff as I came across it.  To have a regular information source for staff is important.

A good article on getting to the heart of the Common Core Learning Standards.  Barbara Stripling and  Diane Ravitch mentioned.  Don’t be an island onto yourself.  Use the resources around you.

PostHeaderIcon Google Shortcuts

Becoming a Google Wizard - All the Tips, Tricks, and Shortcuts you need to know

Image Source: http://bit.ly/1oxx0c1

Google Shortcuts (PDF)

Google has created lots of shortcuts to help us search more effectively.  It has also included a research tool within Google Docs that has me giddy with glee.  It can autocite resources using MLA, Chicago, and APA.

Although it is not entirely accurate it is a good first step in trying to help students remember to source.  All of the information needed to source the information appears within the document once a cite button is pressed within the Research Window.

Above you will see the PDF I created on some of the shortcuts and helpful hits that I have come across in the past few months.  I thought I would share it with everyone.

Searching Do’s:

  1. Do Search by Reading Level
  2. Do clarify your image search by color, size, type, etc.
  3. Do Autocite citations and information using the Research Bar in Docs
  4. Do search by a Translated Language this will give students the opportunity to see other perspectives on a topic
  5. Do search for an image using an already saved image! (No more forgetting to cite images!)
  6. Do search Full-text of Books and utilize portions of books you have not purchased

Google Shortcuts:

  • Filetype:
  • Time
  • Weather
  • Define:
  • Translate
  • allintext:
  • allintitle:
  • ~ = Related Search Terms
  • phonebook:
  • bphonebook:
  • inurl:
  • daterange:
  • movie:
  • view:timeline
  • cache:website address
  • site:

PostHeaderIcon Apple vs. Android

Apple Logo vs. Android Logo

Image Source: http://bit.ly/1m8XIpY

So I was reading a blog that did a nice job laying out public opinion on the Apple vs. Android discussion.  Should schools get iPads or Android Tablets?  Which is the best solution?

One of the big concerns with Apple is the way they are marketing the iPad.  Users seems to be looking for a netbook replacement.  They want to be able to hook in their peripherals.  They want USB, HDMI, & SD Card ports, not to mention the limits of Google Apps on iPads.  Android allows users to use Flash and other popular tools.  Though with the transition to HTML5, maybe Flash will not be such a big deal in the future.

I do wonder if jumping on the tablet band wagon is necessary….could education wait until the price goes down?  Are there cheaper options such as the Nook Color adding Android accessibility options?   Companies are rushing to come out with the next solution.  Is the first solution the best?  Should schools even be buying these things when students can bring them in to school to use on a wireless network?  Not all students have these tools…so buy a few instead of for all students.  Cellphones are quickly replacing laptops for simple and general computing.  Things change every day…I look forward to the next advance with interest.

Another user notes the ease in which Google makes app creation.  In the Google App Inventor, users can easily create apps.  This is ideal for students.  However, Apple caters to education and has a variety of educational apps.  Android needs to catch up to be a threat in that field.

To create an iPad, iTouch app there are a few more steps.

“First start by joining Apple’s iPad Dev Program ($99).  With your membership you will get iPhone SDK with Xcode, interface builder, ipad simulator, sample codes, video guides, forum, and performance analyzer.  Download and install the latest version of the iPhone SDK. Note, you will also need a MAC or  Mac Mini with the freshest Snow Leopard installed in order to run it. If you cannot afford a MAc. you may try to develop on a Hackintosh PC. Here is a tutorial on building a Hackintosh with Snow Leopard, no hacking required that might help you in your project.  There are some great places with tutorials and guides or forums to ask for help from other developers: Apple Dev Forum
What will you choose?  Will your choose?  Take a look at your needs and reasons and then decide.

PostHeaderIcon HTML & CSS CodeAcademy

Students are always asking me how to code HTML and CSS.  In the past there are very few places to send them to go step by step in understanding how it all works.  Thankfully this has changed with the recent update to CodeAcademy.  CodeAcademy is an interactive site designed to help people understand and create HTML, CSS, and much much more (including

Codeacademy Photo

Image Source: http://bit.ly/1rjAVNw

Coding Java).

I am so excited to share this site with my students.  Thanks Technology for Teachers for pointing out the update in the site.  I can see myself using this site to brush up on some basics and beyond.  The lessons in basic HTML really break down the component parts of creation.  It is a language unto itself and this allows students to learn by doing.  Reading a website giving me HTML tags does not really prompt higher level thinking and experience.  I would just have to keep going back to that site rather than retaining the understanding and information internally.

PostHeaderIcon Meograph: Timeline Creator

Source of Image: http://bit.ly/U2NMr7

Timelines are a staple in social studies and ela.  They help students keep track of dates and facts.  I have been searching for a good online-timeline creator for a while.  I have tried Dipity which is good but I find that it is very slow to load and is limited to the number you can create and information mediums.  So I searched and searched for an alternative and lo and behold I found Meograph.  Not only is it free (YAY!) it can embed videos, text, audio, and uses Google Maps.  I was in heaven.  I did this with a class and it went smoothly.  Well almost smoothly (internet went down once).

Example of a Moment on Meograph

Source: Meograph by Heather Turner

As you can see at the left you can add an event, then a when (date), where (location), link (with more information).  You can also add a photo, youtube video, and even narration.  The narration online is limited to 30 secs.  However, you can upload unlimited audio.  I used Audacity (remember you need the LAME encoder to save as MP3) and had the students record and publish as a MP3.

A note on location:  You must use the current name of the city or town.  Therefore if you are talking about Ancient Persia you need to find the modern country.

PostHeaderIcon Livebinders

Livebinders Uses

Image Source: http://bit.ly/1qWGAcY

Quite awhile ago I talked about how I found the livebinders site a bit clunky.  Well I must revise my statement because the site has worked very well for several research projects I have been doing.  It is so nice to be able to embed websites within one website.  This is extremely helpful with databases because no one can ever find the sheet with the passwords.  We want students, staff, and parents to access and utilize the resources we sink tons of money into.  They are fabulous resources and anything I can do to increase use and accessibility is key.

In terms of how I have been using the product.  I have embedded those databases relevant to the research as well as websites I have  come across that are relevant to the project.  I even embed EasyBib so they can begin thinking about the Bibliography at the beginning of the project.  It does not matter what the end product consists of because citing sources is pivotal in my mind and that of the common core.  In the following example, the students were researching for a Roaring Twenties Glog.  I love Glogster Edu for poster projects because you are not limited by paper.  Adding videos and audio are a welcome perk.  Not to mention adding document, drawing, and much much more.  However, back to Livebinder.  I was able to embed my video/audio converter, video resources, audio resources, databases, and well researched websites.  The goal of this project was to have students be successful locating information within a bunch of good resources.  This is challenging for students.

If you want to create a project based resource for your students, LiveBinders is a great choice.  It is flexible for and above all extremely easy to use and create on the fly.

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