Friday, September 26, 2014

Remind for text students

Remind formerly Remind101, is a great way to text students for free. I've used it to remind students to study for upcoming quizzes and tests. There have also been times when the students leave the classroom and then I remember I should have reminded them to bring a flash drive or some index cards to class next time. Not a problem any more!

Students easily signed up by sending a text message using a specific code that I gave them in class. Students that don't have a cell phone can sign up to receive the messages as emails, so no one is left out.

I can schedule reminders to go out later in the day. I can also attach pictures or documents with my message. Now students can't say they lost my study guide.

As a Spanish Teacher, I'm typing the message in Word with the correct symbols and then pasting them into the message. It would be nice to see those characters available in the future.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Google Voice for assignments

I use Google Voice for homework assignments. Setting up a phone number was easy. I chose a local area code so that my students wouldn't complain about having to call long distance. Explaining the concept of Google Voice to my students was interesting. They didn't understand how calling a phone number would convert the phone call into something I could see and hear on my computer.

For the assignment, I gave the students an open ended question that they would have to think of their opinion on and explain to me why the arrived at that conclusion.  Students were told to write down their response first and practice saying it, in order to ensure that they said their response correctly. A 1-2 sentence response was encouraged. When calling I told the students to first record their name followed by the class period that they are in, and lastly, their response to the prompt.

There were a few students that because of the phone reception, I was not able to understand their name. I was then able to text them back to the number they had called from, using Google Voice and ask them to give me their name and period.

I graded their responses on whether they answered the question and had submitted their response on time. When I sat down to grade, I had Google Voice open and my grade book. I listened to responses and immediately inputted the grades.

As a foreign language teacher, I enjoyed hearing my students practice proper pronunciation skills.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Kahoot, making learning and assessment fun

Kahoot is a free online tool that allows teachers to create interactive gaming experiences for their students. The teacher designs the questions and picks the correct answer. Once the game is created, students create a free account and use any internet browser capable device to log onto the game. Students compete with one another to respond correctly to each question. The system keeps track of their position in the game and the top 5 scores.

As you can see from the photo, I tried Kahoot with my 8th grade students. I used it as a fun review before a big test. As a Spanish Teacher, I was pleased to see that Kahoot has built in features that allowed me to easily add special characters. The students had never experienced something like Kahoot. I gave students very little instructions at the beginning and I allowed them to figure things out as the game progressed. They were very excited about playing this game. I allocated 30 minutes of class and had 35 questions. Students could see immediate results after each question. The fact that they were immediately ranked among their classmates made it very competitive. It's wonderful when students can learn and have fun at the same time.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Google add-ons- Lucid Chart

I recently discovered Google add-ons. My 7th and 8th grade students only have Chromebooks, so I was looking for a way to allow them to create mind maps without having to purchase a subscription to an online mind map site like Mindmeister. I was thrilled to have discovered Google add-ons. It allows you to add additional software programs to your Google Docs account.

 In the example above, students were asked to create a mind map using the Lucid Chart. We are currently covering family members in my Spanish class, so adjacent bubbles needed to describe the family member in Spanish.

You first open a document and select Add-ons, followed by Get add-ons.

You then select the add-on that you want. In my case, I used Lucid chart, but I am looking forward to trying all the other add-ons out.
Students are then able to create new documents using the features of the specific program. It opens another window and it saves your work as you go.

Friday, April 11, 2014


Duolingo reminds me of Rosetta Stone, but without the costly price tag. In fact, Duolingo is free! Students can create an account using their email address. Once logged in, select the language that you want to learn and it will give you the option of testing to see where you are at or going through all the basics. This is great, because it allows higher achieving students to jump ahead and work at their own pace.

Duolingo provides opportunities to improve reading, writing, and speaking skills. Pictures are used as a way to help the student understand the content. Voice recognition allows the students to repeat or answer a prompt. Written exercises encourage proper spelling. In Spanish, accent marks are provided on screen for the students to choose from.

Duolingo provides a game type feel. Students have a certain amount of hearts at the beginning of each lesson (much like life). If the students gets a problem wrong, they lose a heart. If they lose all their hearts, they need to re-do that lesson. If they get a certain number of problems correct in a row, they get a jewel. The students can later trade those jewels for items in the virtual store.

My students love working with Duolingo. They all seem to feel that they are learning and that it is also fun.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Personality and Teaching Style

For a recent class I was asked to complete an online personality test and a teaching style inventory. The results of the personality test indicated that I was 69% ESTP. I can see the connection between this and my work as an educator. ESTP is described as being an “action oriented problem solver”. As a teacher, I’m constantly thinking on my feet. When the lesson doesn’t go as planned that day, you need to be able to move on with the show. I also enjoy doing various crafts, and I have used my talents to help the school at fundraising events.


ESTP 69%
If your closest personality type is ESTP then you are an action oriented problem solver. You enjoy getting things done, and taking action to solve practical problems. You are in your element when there is a crisis requiring urgent action, which you are able to resolve. If you have any particular skills (e.g. sports, crafts or sales) then you enjoy applying those skills to reach a tangible goal (winning a game, making a sale, or building something tangible).


How did your personality affect your choice of content area?

I did not choose my content area based on my personality traits. However, I can see how much subject area requires someone that is outgoing and not shy. Teaching a foreign language involves talking and engaging with the students in order to make the material relevant and meaningful.

How does your personality affect your relationships with your students?

My personality allows me to relate to understand my students better. I am always the person in charge, however, I treat my students with love and respect and they usually will do the same. I’ve had other teachers comment on the rapport that I share with my students. I use humor in my classroom to lighten the mood, but students are aware that there are limits.

How will your teaching and learning style affect your teaching and your students’ abilities to be successful?

Being aware of your own personality and teaching style is important. It allows me to better understand myself and therefore, help my students better understand what I need them to be able to do. I’m a highly visual and creative person and I am always looking for new ways to make the lesson more interesting and engaging. The teaching style inventory indicated that I was high in both formal authority and personal model. I make my rules and expectations clearly known to my students, because of this behavior problems are rarely an issue. I also try to provide students with examples from my life as they relate to my topic and hopefully help them see a connection between the content and real-life.

Top of Form

The results of your teaching style survey are as follows:

Bottom of Form

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Bottom of Form


Monday, March 3, 2014

Alternatives to PowerPoint

We've all heard the expression "death by PowerPoint". Teachers today need to find more engaging ways to present information. I recently tried a program call GoAnimate. It had a free trial. It allowed me to create a brief animation by simply selecting background scenes and characters. I had a lot of fun playing with my goanimation. I controlled what the characters said by either typing it in and selecting one of their recorded text to type voices or by speaking and recording my own voice. Granted that I am a teacher, not a programmer, it was easy to use. Best part, no coding required!

I also tried creating a Prezi. A prezi allows you to create slides, but in a non-linear form. It allows you to show a map our trajectory for your slides that PowerPoint just doesn't. You can a variety of information to your slides including YouTube videos. I can see the potential for it in the classroom, not only for myself, but also for the students to use. They can explain a timeline in history more vividly and jump between text, images, and videos effortlessly.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Google Glass in Ed

I'm lucky enough to live in the Bay Area, very close to Google headquarters. A few months ago I watched a person wearing what seemed liked have of a pair of glasses. The frame was very thin and only one of the lenses was there, but very small. I asked what he was wearing and he told me that he was testing the prototype for Google called Glass. I suppose this is how people felt when they saw the first microwave. It looked foreign and unknown.

Fellow blogger Gary King wrote about the potential use of Google Glass in Education. He proposes that it could be used for:
  • Collaboration-recording conversations amongst two students
  • Video recording-see the world through the eyes of one person
  • Translator- quickly access the translation of a word in a Foreign Language class. However, as a Foreign Language Teacher myself, I find that this may be a problem. I don't always allow students to use a dictionary in class, because I want them to think and use the vocabulary they know.
  • Research- find information for an assignment or project. However, I wonder how user friendly it will be to search and use information or if it will be the equivalent of using a tablet for just a quick search.
  • Maps-talking about a given country in class, you can easily access the appropriate map or even with Google Street View, easily show what the location looks like.
I wonder how comfortable they will be to wear for long periods of time. I'm not a fan of having to wear something on my face. What happens with the people who already wear glasses, do they wear these on top?

Do you think Google Glass has potential for Education? What would you do with it?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Make your whiteboard into a smartboard for cheap

Not all schools have the budget to buy a smart board. A co-worker of mine recently discovered how she could make her whiteboard into a smart board. You'll need a computer, projector, a pointer, a Wii Remote and a free software called Smoothboard. You can also make the pointer with an old dry erase marker and something reflective for the tip.

 It does take some adjustments to make sure everything is lined-up properly, but it provides a cost effective solution. Smoothboard Air software

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Should Social Media be used in the classroom?

Every school I have ever worked for has had a strong policy not only against the use of Social Media, but also the use of cell phones in the classroom. In fact, most school districts block such sites for fear of having the students use school equipment to log onto social media sites. What are schools really afraid of? Is it the inability to control what students are saying? Is it the inability to track and approve commentary before it is shared with the world?
Does social media have an educational use in the classroom? Is all social media acceptable to use in the classroom or should only certain ones be allowed? Does Twitter pose more educational value than Facebook?
Teachers that are using Twitter in the classroom are using it to remind students of upcoming assignments and tests. They are using Twitter as a structured assignment where they respond to a given prompt and collaborate virtually with not only their classmates, but other people around the world.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Blended Learning

The Diocese that I work for recently created a program called the Katharine Drexel Initiative. It's purpose has been to use technology as a method of increasing student engagement and learning. One of the key factors of this initiative was the use of blended learning. "Blended learning is an approach that blends individualized, online learning with face-to-face classroom instruction". The initiative started with implementation of blended learning in 6 schools. The idea is that individualized use of technology will allow not only the low achieving students to succeed, but also the high achieving. Therefore, changing how we teach in the classroom.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Teaching trouble-shooting skills

I recently had my middle school students work on an internet scavenger hunt. They were given a paper with three websites and three questions that they had to answer based on the information they found on these websites.

 First, I was amazed with how many of them did not know how to type in a web address. They would type in half of the address and then raise their hands up in the air in despair and say "it's broken", "it doesn't work". I went around and checked what they were doing, and sure enough, they had not typed in all of the web address or typed it in incorrectly. How is that these students did not know how to fix the problem? Well, it seems that they are use to being given web addresses in hyperlinked form and did not have the experience of having to type it in.

Second, I've seem the students enlarge or decrease the screen and not know how to restore it. How is this possible? Well, many of them spend more time working on tablets than they do on pc's.

Third, I had one student forget his email password and again, raise his hands up in the air and not know what to do. I politely suggested he find a way to solve the problem. He starred at the screen and after a few moments he had no idea what to do. I then suggested he click on the forgot my password option and follow to the prompts. I asked him if he had ever used that password retrieval process, and he said no. He said his parents don't let him access any social media and he doesn't use a computer at home.

I find all these problems both troubling and interesting. 21st generation students doesn't necessarily mean that they are proficient in working with all media types. Their proficiency highly depends on their exposure to various types of internet and computer activities. Parents that are overly protecting their kids from technology are also harming their skill development. As teachers, we need to not only teach them how to trouble-shoot tech problems, but also teach them how to be critical thinkers and find the solutions for themselves.