For this lesson, I ended up looking at the following blogs: Aabdul810, TechieToolsBlog, and Bri’sCoolToolsBlog.
What did I learn? So much!!! I wish I did a better job of reading other blogs during this year’s Cool Tools because in just this weekend, I got so many ideas and learned so many cool tips and tricks. I guess that will be my goal for next year…
One of the first things I learned, courtesy of Aabdul810’s Thing 2 post on Photo Fun, was that you can use your own photo to create word clouds in Tagxedo! I had no idea you could do this-I just assumed I had to use their pre-programmed options. (I really really wanted to try this out right now but, I’m out of town for the long weekend and my host’s computer says it doesn’t have the right software to create a Tagxedo.)
Over at Bri’s Cool Tools Blog, I learned about LessonPaths in her Thing 5 Curation Tools post. Not only is it another potential way for me to curate resources for students (I like that it supports a wide variety of resource tools), you can search other people’s “playlists” so you don’t have to constantly reinvent the wheel when looking for great resources for teachers, students, and parents.
Finally, I hit up Techie Tools Blog. In Thing 11: Coding tools, I learned about the app Cargo Bot. I’ve been celebrating coding month in December the past two years with my 1st-5th graders. I get a lot of great ideas and activities (even some unplugged activities) from the Hour of Code website but, also like to have some coding apps for the kids to try. Right now, I only have Daisy the Dinosaur and Scratch Jr on our iPads. This app will make an excellent addition to our coding apps (can’t believe it’s free!!!) but, like Techie Tools, I’ll have to practice more with it before I introduce it to the kids! I’m stuck on one of the early tutorial levels!!
Another great idea I picked up over at Techie Tools Blog was using Google Classroom for Battle of the Books! Being a relatively new librarian, and thus fairly new to Battle of the Books, I’m still looking for ways to improve on it every year. But, I’m also looking for improvements that also make running it easier on me-this will be especially true next year when we no longer have our library clerks (a fact I’m pretty sure I’m still in deep, deep denial about…). On the surface, it might seem like setting up Battle of the Books in Google Classroom might be more work, not less, however if I use some of my summer break to set things up in Google Classroom, I think I could save myself a lot of time during the school year.
However, I didn’t just love this idea because it potentially revolutionize the way I conduct Battle of the Books in my building next year, I loved it because it finally gave me a good idea for using Google Classroom in the library. Every since they finally made Google Classroom available to us, I’ve wanted to use it with my classes but, I also didn’t want to use it just to use it. I wanted to have a good idea that made the most sense with Google Classroom instead of another option. One of my biggest holdups with Google Classroom was that, if I don’t always use it, the kids will forget how to access it. So few of my classroom teachers use our Google Apps for Education options with their classes that their Gmail credentials aren’t something they are use to needing to know. I’ve been extolling the benefits of Google Docs and slowly making some converts this year. One of the things that frequently happens though, is that the teacher makes a master template in Google Docs, shares it with the students, and then when they all open it and start working on it, everyone is overriding everyone else’s work. If I’m available, I’ve been able to show them how to have students make their own copy (the only way I knew how to combat this problem) but, when I’m not available, they often give up and just switch to Word docs. Not something that helps me make converts of everyone…
But now, thanks to Techie Tools post, I know that Google Classroom has an option that will MAKE A COPY FOR EACH STUDENT!!! This tiny detail alone might be enough for me to convince loads of teachers to join me on the Google bandwagon next year! I can’t wait to start showing and telling this little detail all over the school, maybe even the district…I think I might have an idea for my first PD session next year!
And finally, here’s the links to where I left some comments on the other blogs:
Techietoolsblog Thing 11: Coding Tools
Techietoolsblog Thing 12: Collaborating, Connecting, and Sharing
Bri’s Cool Tools Blog Thing 5: Curation Tools
Bri’s Cool Tools Blog Thing 3: Online Communities and Personal Learning Networks