Link of the Week: TodaysMeet

My Ipad

My Ipad

Online Discussion in the Classroom

For this week’s link of the week I thought I would suggest a site that my colleague over at AWritableLife introduced me to over the summer: TodaysMeet. After having used this a few times this year with different classes and grade levels, I can honestly say that this is a great resource for the classroom.

TodaysMeet allows the teacher to create a room for online discussions. It honestly only takes a few seconds to set up a room and get the ball rolling. When you create the room, the site gives you an address as todaysmeet.com/your_room_name that you share with your students. Once the students go to that address, they just sign in with a name and can begin contributing to the discussion. No one has to sign up for any sort of account or even give an email address. You just think of a name you want to use for the room, tell the site how long the room needs to be up, and that is that. Plus, the site will work on Ipads. If you are lucky enough to be part of a 1-1 program this is a great benefit.

If you happen to teach at a school where Twitter is blocked, like mine, then TodaysMeet is a great alternative. The comments are limited to the same number of characters as Twitter, so students get the Twitter experience with having to choose their words carefully. When I have used this in my classes, we have even used hashtags to make things easier to follow. So, if you have ever wanted to host a tweetup for a class, this is an easy way to do that if you are blocked.

My 2 Favorite Aspects

The aspect I like the most about using TodaysMeet is that I have been able to get input from students who I never hear from during a traditional class discussion. I have noticed students who I would have thought were clueless about what we were reading had some really great insights to offer. That is a priceless thing and has reminded me to not judge students so hastily. Along with this, I have gotten more discussion about texts compared to times when we discussed things outloud.

The second aspect of TodaysMeet that I really like is that once we have finished the discussion I can save the entire transcript of the meeting. I usually save it as a PDF file and email it to all the students when we are preparing for discussion or essays questions at test time. When my senior, college credit class was discussing The Crucible the transcript for that session was 40 pages long. That is a pretty hefty study resource.

I really recommend you check out the site. I know I plan on using it even more next year and will devote time this summer trying to dream up some different ways to use it.

How have you used online discussion in your classroom? If you have tried TodaysMeet, what are your thoughts about it?

As always feel free to leave comments, or questions. If you like this post or site, like it on Facebook, follow it on Twitter, subscribe, or share it with someone. The more, the merrier.

Blog Link of the Week: Neil Gaiman

Pens and pencils on my desk

Pens and pencils on my desk

I spend a lot of time reading. Big surprise big surprise since I am an English teacher. One thing I have noticed since starting this blog is that I read more and more material that is online. Whether it is surfing around looking for inspiration, or information, or interesting blogs, the list of blogs and sites I like to revisit continues to grow and grow. With that in mind, I thought I would start sharing some of my favorite links to various locations around the web. This post is the first in what I intend to be a regular, weekly feature.

As a reader, English teacher, and wanna-be writer, words hold a special power over me. Well, saying that it is the words that have the power is probably a bit misleading. The real power comes from the ideas–and the transmitting of those ideas from one person to another through markings on a page, or screen. It should come as no surprise then that writers grab my attention rather easily. Some more than others. Professional writers who give us a glimpse into a life filled with writing usually make it into my bookmarks or favorites folder. And that is where I am going to start this new weekly feature, with the author Neil Gaiman.

Here is the link to Gaiman’s blog: Neil Gaiman’s Journal. His official website can be found here: neilgaiman.com. I must admit that I didn’t really visit either of those two sites until I started following Gaiman on Twitter.

Gaiman frequently tweets and updates his blog. So, getting a glimpse into the life of a professional writer is pretty easy and entertaining with his tweets and posts. He covers just about everything–from his current projects to things that inspire him.

So, whether you are looking for inspiration, insight,  or entertainment, visiting Neil Gaiman’s blog is a sure win.

Which writers have blogs that you like to visit? Which authors do you follow on Twitter?

As always, please feel free to leave a comment, ask a question, give some advice, or tell me to shut up. If you like this post, or blog, please follow it on Facebook or Twitter, subscribe to it, or share it with a friend. The more, the merrier.

10 iPad Apps Every Teacher with a Blog Needs

My iPad

My iPad

Apps for the Blogging Teacher

In previous posts I have thrown out lists of my favorite apps, apps for teachers, apps for yearbook staffs, and websites for yearbook advisers and students. So, today I thought I would post a list of apps that teachers with blogs might find useful since a great deal of teachers use blogs in the classroom, run their own blog, or do both.

When I started thinking about the iPad apps to put on the list, I decided that I would include apps I use to create posts or pages, help manage the content, or find and store ideas. So, for better or for worse, here it is:

  1. Blogsy ($4.99) There are times when I don’t feel like sitting at a desk or having my laptop restrict my positioning on the couch. So, when these moments hit–and they are becoming more frequent–I can use Blogsy to write and publish my blog posts. It is a pretty cool blogging app that supports multiple blogs for platforms like WordPress, Blogger, Posterous, and Typepad just to name a few. It also makes it easy to insert photos and videos from Picasa, Flickr, and Youtube even if you have multiple accounts at those sites. This is a pretty handy, robust little app when the full-on couch potato mode kicks in.
  2. Diigo Browser (free) A nifty little browser app that lets me highlight and make notes on material from web pages and then save them to my Diigo account. I originally set up the Diigo account to experiment with social bookmarking, but it quickly dawned on me that I could use in conjunction with my blog as one more weapon in my arsenal of tools that lets me save bits of the web for ideas.
  3. Feeddler (free for lite version, $4.99 for Pro version) Whether you follow a multitude of blogs for personal reasons, or need to keep track of student blogs, an app for RSS feed aggregation is a must in my book. This one is my personal favorite.
  4. Twittelator ($4.99) If you use Twitter in conjunction with your blog at all–be it to promote your blog through social media or to simply provide some additional, quick content, Twittelator is an easy app to use for whatever your Twitter needs may be. It is a really nice looking app and is very good at switching between multiple Twitter accounts.
  5. Dropbox (free) I’ve said it before and I will say it again now: I don’t know how I would get through a typical day without using Dropbox. I move a ton of stuff between my laptop and iPad. If you need to do a lot of file juggling, this is the way to go.
  6. Photoshop Express (free) I have been a heavy Photoshop user for years as a result of being a yearbook adviser. And I will admit the idea of using anything with the name “Photoshop” on anything other than a full-blown desktop or laptop still seems strange. That being said, if you need to do a quick crop, noise filter, or other basic adjustment to a photo on your iPad, this app easily gets it done. That is pretty handy if you want all of the photos to be yours so that you don’t have to worry about copyright issues.
  7. Pages ($9.99) As far as my blog goes, Pages comes into play because I keep a list of possible blog topics that I add something to almost every day. I started the list on my laptop using Word, but I decided to upload it to my Dropbox just so that I can get to it on my iPad. Pages lets me add to or edit the list if I don’t have my laptop with me when an idea strikes.
  8. Zite (free) The last 3 apps on the list all fall into the category of apps I use to find and store inspiration or ideas. The Zite app creates a personal magazine for me from a list a topics I choose. I read through it everyday at some point and when I find an article that strikes a chord I can either email to myself or save it using Instapaper or Read It Later. When I run out of memory on the iPad I am sure it will be because of all the articles I have saved after finding them on this app.
  9. Pinterest (free) This app is for the latest hot trend in social media. Pinterest is the fastest growing social media site that has come around in awhile. By letting members clip–or pin–bits of web sites to personal boards they share with others, Pinterest enables people to become curators of information on the web. This app lets you access your account so you can look at what you or your friends have put on their boards–another place to go for ideas and inspiration. Some experts in the Social Media field are saying Pinterest is becoming just as vital to blog promotion as Twitter and Facebook.
  10. Springpad (free) This is the newest app to make it onto my iPad. Springpad is another app that lets you save bits of the web to an account which you can access either through the app or through a web browser on a computer. The twist that Springboard brings to the game is that it tracks prices of all sorts of things–music, movies, books, restaurants, etc. It also has a built-in barcode scanner function if you need to find out prices. While bar code scanning might not affect me that much, I can see how some blogging teachers might find it useful. Oh, Springboard also has a built in audio recorder that could be pretty useful for a blogger.

Well, there it is. I have no pretense that this list is the end-all, be-all list of apps for teachers with blogs. So, if you are a teacher who blogs, what apps do you use or suggest? If you are a blogger of any sort, what apps do you like?  Please feel free to comment, like, or share this post as you see fit. Thanks.

Useful Websites for Yearbook Advisers and Students

Magazines to read

Image by Longzero via Flickr

Websites Every Yearbook Adviser Should Know

My last few posts have been about apps for teachers, my favorite apps, going paperless, and the possibility of the yearbook as an ebook. So, instead of writing more about iPad apps,  I thought I would post a list of websites that I find useful in my role as a yearbook adviser since that is a huge part of my teaching life.  Some of these sites I use regularly, some occasionally. But, no matter the frequency I visit them, they have all helped me at some point or another.

I’ve broken the list into categories in order to give a better sense of where I go when looking for something applicable to a particular need. I’m sure this list is not definitive by any stretch of the imagination. If you know a useful website, let me know about it. Please.

Design Inspiration and Ideas

During my 12 years as a yearbook adviser I have found that I spend a lot of time looking for design ideas for spreads. When trying to find some ideas or inspiration, here are some websites I like to use and send my students to.

Various Publication Types

These are sites I mainly use to look for magazine spreads.

  1. The Society of Publication Designers A great site for looking at layouts from all types of publications. The site also has articles discussing various design topics.
  2. A board someone put together on Pinterest Pinterest is the latest hot, up-and-coming social site that lets it users “pin” images and pieces of websites they like into collections called boards which they organize by interest. I just recently found this board of images showcasing some really good spread designs. One thing to note about Pinterest is that you have to be invited to start your own boards.
  3. A Flickr group devoted to layouts There are several groups on Flickr devoted to layout design. This is just the one I happen to like the most.
  4. issuu.com  Issuu lets people and publishers post their magazines. You can look through and entire issue of the magazines listed on the site to look for design ideas or inspiration. One thing to be cautious about before sending staffers to the site is that some of the magazines may contain images that are inappropriate for your students.
  5. Google’s Image Search Sometimes I like to go  to Google’s Image search and use “flickr magazine layouts” or “great magazine layouts” just to see what pops up.

Yearbook Publishers Showcases

All of the big school yearbook publishers have sections to showcase some of the work in their clients’ books. Some of the sites also make it possible to view issues of the magazines they send to the advisers of their client school.

  1. Herff Jones’ Design Showcase This link will allow you to look at different layouts for some of Herff Jones’ schools.
  2. Walsworth’s Showcase You can look at covers, layouts, and award winners from Walsworth’s schools here.
  3. Josten’s Lookbook, Adviser & Staff Magazine Go here to look at the publications Josten’s makes available to the advisers at its client schools.
  4. Josten’s Yearbook Contests Josten’s runs one of the largest national yearbook contests and you can go here to look at the winners.
  5. Balfour/Taylor Publishing  You can look at the current issue of Taylor  Talk here.

Getting the Word Out and Sharing

I decided to include these sites on the list because of their ability to help yearbook advisers and staff stay connected with the students and parents at their school.

  1. Facebook You can create a page for your yearbook on Facebook. I have used our school’s yearbook page to give hints of spreads, share some photos, and, most importantly, post messages about ordering dates or other information.
  2. Twitter Another way to get important information out to students and parents is by setting up a Twitter account for the yearbook.
  3. Flickr  A popular site for sharing photos. You could set up an account for the yearbook and get students and parents to share their photos through this service.
  4. Picasa  This is Google’s photo sharing site; so, if you already have gmail, all you have to do is activate your Picasa option to start using this service.  The adviser for my school’s elementary yearbook uses photos parents submit through Picasa.

Journalism Associations and Organizations

The following websites are for national press associations and organizations related to high school journalism.  They all have tons of information about journalism, contests, workshops, and other general topics a yearbook adviser or journalism teacher will find helpful.  I tend to go to these sites when I am looking for lesson plan ideas, contest information, or critique services.

  1. Quill and Scroll Society
  2. National Scholastic Press Association
  3. Columbia Scholastic Press Association
  4.  Journalism Education Association
  5.  High School Journalism from ASNE

Well, there is the list such as it is.  If you use a website that you find useful as a yearbook adviser please let me know about it.

Favorite iPad Apps

My iPhone apps as of February 2010

Image by dougbelshaw via Flickr

Since I got my iPad2 back in May I have used it more than I ever thought I possibly would. I thought I would list some of the apps I frequently use, or at least like a great deal. I hope to do more of these lists, so I will start with a list of apps that I use in a personal capacity.

My Favorite iPad Apps

  1. Zite  I recently got this app and I use it everyday to read about things that interest me.  What I really, really like about it is that it provides a great deal of customization in terms of the articles it gathers. I also like that I can tell it which articles I like and Zite will list more articles similar to that one.
  2. Flipboard  This was the first personal magazine app that I got. I still use it regularly–especially for the Facebook and Twitter integration.
  3. Smugmug  I got this app just so I can look at the photos in my Smugmug account on the iPad. Why?  Because they look AMAZING on the iPad–a lot more amazing than they actually are. We all need something to make us feel better about ourselves.
  4. iTunes Movie Trailers  As a bit of a movie junkie, I find that being able to easily and quickly view trailers for upcoming movies is almost a necessity. Yeah, I admit I will probably wait for them to come out on DVD or Bluray before I watch them, but just because I find the current ticket prices at theaters just stupid.
  5. Kindle  Helloooo–I’m an English teacher. This is almost a job requirement. I confess that I never really saw myself as becoming an ebook reader–but boy I am now thanks in large part to this app. I now understand why brick-and-mortar bookstores are going away.
  6. Notes Plus  This is my current favorite note taking app.  Check back with me later–this one changes fairly frequently.
  7. EW Magazine/EW’s Must List  I am going to count these as 1 since they both come from the same place.  At first I just had the must list, but when I found out that I can get copies of the magazine on the iPad because I have a subscription I got that app too. I must say they iPad version of an issue looks better than the printed version.
  8. Reeder  Pretty handy for keeping up with some of the blogs I follow.
  9. Ask Mr. Robot  Geeky confession time I guess. This handy-dandy little app lets me keep my World of Warcraft characters optimized for maximum killing efficiency.  I also confess that I don’t use this as much as I did at one time since I don’t play WoW that much recently.
  10. Instapaper  For reasons I don’t fully understand, I find that I sometimes like to read articles from web pages when I am offline.

Well, there it is: my list of apps I use a lot for entertainment or when I am winding down/killing time.  I hope to do a list of apps that I use in my classroom pretty soon. Stay tuned.

Also: Because I am always on the lookout for the latest and greatest App, what are your favorite apps?