Archive for April, 2013

Lino: Because Mind Mapping Software is Boring as Boring Gets

Posted in Uncategorized on April 24, 2013 by teachermariannebard

Good evening fellow living things with arms, legs, heads, hands, feet… Can you tell I’m tired?

Well, welcome to the last week of class. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!… I thought I’d find an image to illustrate how I feel as the end of the semester gets nearer and nearer and here’s the image that best suits how I feel:

Okay, so even though I’m near total exhaustion, I must still bring you la crème de la crème of web teaching tools. One evening, as my mind drifted from one of my research projects to videos of baby birds and comedians on the internet, I stumbled upon something quite nice on this website called The Teacher List.ca (which you should take a look at, it’s quite interesting for web tools and general discussion regarding technologies in teaching). It’s called Lino.

DID YOU MEAN ”DINO”? HECK YEAH! DINOSAURS! WHAT ABOUT THEM? THEY’RE STILL DEAD, AREN’T THEY?

Well, yes they’re still dead. I doubt that this is going to change any time soon but this is not what this tool is about. Now, now… before you express your utterly extreme disappointment, let me tell you more about this darling.

Before anything, we’ve all had to make some concept maps as students. Making them by hand takes forever and, let’s face it, how often do they look even near the aesthetically tolerable? That’s right. Never. Nevertheless, they’re still pretty useful study tools for many students.

But for the love of N.W.A., is it just me or is all that mind mapping software really boring and messed-up? I’ve tried a few myself and they generally respect at least one or all of the following criterion:

  1. The aesthetics are impossible to figure out. Why the hell is this line red and this one blue? Can’t they be all the same colour? And why is there a smiley face here? What’s this arrow about?
  2. You can’t move stuff where you want it to be moved.
  3. You can’t get past the freaking automatic configuration of those freaking treasure hunt trails (I’m talking to you, people who made iMind Map … that is indeed what your mind maps look like) in order to print something that fits into a single sheet.
  4. Why can’t those lines be STRAIGHT?????? I’m not a graphic designer for God’s sake! I want those lines to be straight! Screw the visual effect!
  5. And so many more frustrating features…

Here’s where Lino comes to the rescue.

RESCUE? AM I DROWNING? OH NO! SAVE ME! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Calm down. Here’s the deal in a nutshell, according to the people who made that tool:

  • It’s basically a blank canvas that allows you to make up your own sticky notes and drag them wherever the Hell you want to create you own concept maps, note pads, schedules, etc.
  • It’s freaking free, unlike a lot of mind mapping software which often requires paid membership after the trial period.
  • You don’t need anything else than a web browser to work with it. Now… I know what you’re thinking…

THIS WON’T WORK FOR THE LIFE OF ME IF I USE IT ON MY IPAD! OH NO!

Well, darlings. It turns out that it will (That’s right, there’s an app for that). In fact, it works with pretty much any electronic device and much more. It turns out that you can use this baby quite everywhere with pretty much any electronic device. Check out the advantages listed on the blog of Dreamcss:

  • You can attach files to sticky notes, such as ”Hey do not forget to print that thing for tomorrow (include the important file in the note)” or ”It may or may not be a good idea,depending on how much you care, to check your course syllabus (insert link to syllabus here).”
  • With the free membership comes the possibility to add 100MB of small files within a month. Pretty sweet, uh? For most of us, that’s fairly sufficient.
  • All the notes you take can be shared on a group page. Exam reminder for all made easy!
  • Let’s say you just made up a bunch of notes and, for the love of God, you can’t find that note you’re looking for. Don’t you worry darling because there’s a search bar that allows you to enter keywords and search through your notes to find the one you’re looking for.
  • I know what you’re thinking… It’s an online tool. You can’t save anything, right? Well, it turns out that you can. You can even select favourite canvases that you’ve made, chose the ones you want to share, etc. Thank you Lord. It doesn’t have to get lost in the infinite and endless world of the internet. You can all save this as part of your free membership.
  • Remember just a few lines ago when I told you that you could insert a link to your syllabus? Well you can insert HTML codes of all kinds in there.

But wait, there’s more!

I CAN’T HANDLE THIS MUCH AWESOMENESS! MAY THE LORD TAKE MY SOUL FOR I CANNOT HANDLE THIS INTELLECTUAL COMPLEXITY OF THE UTTERLY INSANE!

Hold on a second. With all of that goodness come what I consider to be Lino’s best features:

  • You get a whole bunch of free layouts to use. That’s right. It doesn’t have to be boring, yet the aesthetics of it all can be pleasing and easy to use. They’re already made for you!
  • You can insert pictures, videos, anything into your notes.
  • It’s all online, so you can access this from freaking anywhere. If that’s not sweet enough…
  • You can change the colours of your notes and place them wherever the Hell you want. There is no automatic bullcr*p that prevents you from building your own design.
  • You can create an e-mail message including one of your notes and send it to lino. This bad boy will post it as a sticky. I know, right?

And there is so much more that I will not discuss because it would take hours and hours, but you can follow Lino’s blog for more updates and info on how to use its features.

That’s it folks! I most probably will not be back here in a while so have fun this summer!

IT THIS ALL? ASIDE FROM CRYING BLOOD, I’M GOING TO CRY ACTUAL TEARS OUT OF ACTUAL SADNESS?

Farewell! But remember, it’s not over until I say it is…

Quizlet: Because Flashcards Can Do More than Simple Maths for First Graders

Posted in Uncategorized on April 18, 2013 by teachermariannebard

Hello fellow human beings (the bugs in your home ought not to read this)!

The end of the semester is way too close. My first practicum in high school barely had the time to end that I am already planning my second practicum in elementary school. It’s crazy how time flies. I am one more homework assignment away from gauging both of my eyes out in the most violent way I can think of.  I’m not generally like this but the sheer exhaustion that I feel right now makes me want to engage in the following process:

It wouldn’t be too wise though. So, instead of throwing it all away to go do the wackiest job out there, I am here one again to bring you another piece of my newly acquired knowledge of the forever expanding internet. I want to present my newest discovery, which is called Quizlet.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THIS FABULOUS OBJECT OF FANTASY ABOUT?

As mentioned on the technological blog EdJudo, this baby allows you to create your own flashcards that you can customize with your own terms and definitions and freaking share them with your friends like it’s their birthday. We all remember those ridiculous flashcards that we had when we were kids that were supposed to help us learn additions, simple multiplications, etc. Well, back then they weren’t even flashcards, just old, stinky, boring cards made out of cardboard. I couldn’t stand the hell of those. For me, they were useless as they weren’t challenging enough, but they were still useful for most of us students so… what if we could do more with them? When I came across this, I thought ”This darling is just what I’ve been looking for all along!”

But hey, guess what? There’s even more that can be done with this darling.

GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!! I HAVE LOST ENOUGH BLOOD FROM READING THIS BLOG!

Yeah, I’m a teacher. Of course, I’d like to find one way of learning and studying that works for everyone, but the reality says otherwise. This online tool gives you so many options for studying, it’s insane. You get six main cuztomizable ones:

  1. The first one, of course, is flashcards. This one is a great way to test our students’ memory of vocabulary terms, I think. But hey, not to be excluding other subjects, who said it couldn’t be used by history teachers? Or Geography teachers? You can create your own flashcards with the content that you want to practice, of course, but you can also share them with others and use ones made by other people to help you study (Of course, everything’s organized in categories. So you don’t have to wander around the website for hours looking for whatever you’re looking for. Everything that is created on the website can be saved online).
  2. The second one is called the Speller. Basically, it allows you to spell what you hear. This darling works in freaking 18 languages baby. That’s right. I remember somewhere along the course of my practicum, I was helping this young girl spell ”you”. The first time, she wrote ”why o you”. That kid was great with sentence structure but, let’s face it, spelling is harder for some kids than others. We all have our own areas of difficulties.
  3. The third option is called Learn. This one basically tracks your progress and identifies the things that you tend to get wrong. I can think of so many students who just can’t seem to find what they need to work on to first to give themselves a chance at success. It sounds silly to some, but they can easily forget that they tend to have difficulties remembering that the past tense of ”eat” is ”ate”, not ”eated”.
  4. The fourth one is called Test. This one allows you to actually create your own test and get a grade on it. We’ve all had THAT feeling: It’s time for the exam and boy did you wish you had taken more formative quizzes before. Well, there you go. It’s that simple. By the way, as mentioned of EdShelf, you can create multiple types of tests, depending on what you need.
  5. The fifth one is called Scatter. That one allows you to match words with definitions, events with dates, capitals with countries, etc. There’s no limit darling!
  6. The last one is for our hyperactive darlings, it’s the Space Race. This one allows you to get points by typing in words before their definitions disappear off the screen. Some kids prefer competition. If you ask me, it’s perfect for that purpose.

What’s nice about it is that you can freakin’ print those babies. Yup, if you want to carry them with you, you can. No need for a computer. What’s even more awesome, as I found out on TRT (Technological Resources for Teachers), you can print everything in condensed tables or individually, in glossary, table, or index card format.

What’s nice also is that you don’t need to install anything. This darling is all online baby. Students will certainly appreciate that. So, it’s easy access to all kinds of study material for all.

IS THIS LIKE A FREE FOR ALL BUFFET FOR STUDYING?

I guess you could look at it this way…

WeVideo: Because Windows Movie Maker screwed us up

Posted in Uncategorized on April 9, 2013 by teachermariannebard

Hello [insert original form of greeting here…Hey, I may be a young teacher, but it’s still the end of the semester for me!] all!

Yesterday was the end of my first practicum. I’d like to tell you I did not cry like a wimp when I got home, but I did. I’ll miss my little (horned) angels. During my last class at the college, I saw videos that the students had made as a part of one of their projects. As I was watching the incredible result of their efforts, the products of hours and hours of blood, tears and dedication to their studies, I couldn’t help but think… WHAT THE HELL IS THIS??

Seriously, the montages that they had made were worthy of Windows Movie Maker, which in itself is pretty bad, so far from me the idea to hold such poor results against them. What’s a kid supposed to do when asked to produce and edit a music video? They’re not cinematographers.

It reminds me of when I was in High School, because the videos for my school projects were most probably just as bad. I just didn’t realize it back then because Windows Movies Maker was all that was available to edit videos. It was bad back then, it’s bad now. So I was pleased when I stumbled upon WeVideo.com.

WE VIDEO.COM? IS THIS PORNOGRAPHY MATERIAL?

Well… no, not at all. Briefly, the website describes itself as ”an online video creation platform”. No need to install anything on your computer. It’s all accessible online for free. Let me take you through the good stuff…

  1. Now take a deep breath because this baby works in ANY BROWSER. Internet Explorer? Sure. Firefox? Love it. Google Chrome? Go on. Safari? Party hard darlings because there’s practically nothing holding you back. That means that it doesn’t matter whether you’re using a MAC or a PC, because this little piece of fairy dust works with both… for real. This reduces a great deal of compatibility problems.
  2. There are three modes, depending on how good or bad you are at video editing. The three modes are borderline retard, struggling cripple, or mastermind of the universe. Ok… I’m kidding. The modes go from novice to expert. Thank goodness. Even our most stoned students can figure it out!
  3. You get all sorts of themes, effects, and styles to edit your video so it doesn’t look like crap and/or a RAINBOW PARTY. That’s pretty self-explanatory.
  4. There are features for school and business. So, it’s not just sparkle and glitter. You can create professional-looking products. THANK YOU LORD. No more animated Paint drawings.
  5. You can collaborate on videos and manage videos online. That’s always nice considering that most students’ projects tend to get ”lost” along with their USB devices. Yeah, right. Save it online. It’s that simple fellas!

I CONSIDER MYSELF BORDERLINE RETARDED WHEN IT COMES TO VIDEO EDITING. IS IT REALLY THAT EASY?

Actually, I was surprised to find that it is even easier than I thought. As Jennifer Jacobson explains on the WeVideo blog, this baby does a lot, and I mean A LOT of work for you.

  • It freaking FINDS where you posted your videos even if you didn’t save them on your computer. Yup, that’s right. It doesn’t matter if they’re on Facebook, Dropbox, Google Drive… WeVideo allows you to synchronize your accounts together so you can find your videos anywhere. That’s right. This baby is cloud-based. So students can’t use ”I don’t remember where I saved my video” as an excuse anymore.
  • With each theme comes thematic music, titles, special effects, so it doesn’t take hours to get an aesthetically pleasing result. Let’s get real… not all students are patient with technology. It doesn’t matter if they’re in the so-called technological era. Trust me, they still want to get it done quickly and easily.
  • Think about it. Since you can synchronize your Google Drive, Facebook, Dropbox, etc. then you can access your files from anywhere. Students won’t fall asleep while their friend is looking for their video presentation. BOOM. It’s that easy.

MY MIND CANNOT WRAP ITSELF AROUND THIS AMOUNT OF GREATNESS! I’M GONNA NEED THERAPY.

But wait! There’s more [insert bad paid advertisement product here] it! Just as I thought I was done with this baby, I found one more advantage that made me cry tears of blood out of sheer shock. Guess what? As mentioned on the Cosmoreport blog, this darling doesn’t mess with your computer’s performance.

Ok, I know a lot of kids are born with MAC computers in their crib, but hey, it’s not everyone’s case. Most of us, teachers and students, know the pain of trying to work on your computer with a memory intensive  editing program. The other programs go bananas! For your computer, it may be too much to handle.

So it’s quick, easy and it doesn’t get your computer as confused as you are.

WHAT?

That’s what I thought.

Google Drive: Cripples Edition

Posted in Uncategorized on April 2, 2013 by teachermariannebard

Hello my dearest little ducklings (What? I have to change things up every now and then..)!

It’s almost the end of the semester! For that reason, I figured out it’d be smarter for me to write this blog post now, before stabbing myself in both eyes out of sheer exhaustion. I hear you all:

WHAT IN THE WORLD OF TECHNOLOGICAL WONDERS ARE YOU BRINGING TO THE TABLE TODAY?

Oh, have no fear for I shall bring you a piece of my forever expanding knowledge of the internet. I’m not an technological mastermind yet, but let me tell you about my latest object of interest: Google Drive. Doesn’t it sound awesome?

GOOGLE DRIVE? I ALREADY HAVE A DRIVER’S LICENCE. CAN YOU EVEN DRIVE GOOGLE? IS THIS A TRICK QUESTION?

Well, not in that sense. Briefly, as described on Google Drive’s homepage, this baby allows you to do several things:

  1. You can access Google Docs files anywhere and from any computer. If I didn’t know any better, I’d assume I had ultimate power over Google. My practically inexistant salary proves otherwise. But wait, there’s more!
  2. You can also store all your fabulous Google Docs in Google Drive’s cloud. This is similar to Dropbox in that way but I find that Google Drive brings one more lapdance advantage to the table. That being said…
  3. You may collaborate with other people with a Gmail account on the same Google Doc, at the same time AND save it in the cloud

CONTROL YOURSELVES. I know this is a lot of power in our hands but let’s take the time to look at what this baby has to offer to us, people whose mental state sales is on the bordeline between that of the sheer genius and that of the vegetative type (again, most people tend to call us teachers).

I CAN BARELY CONTROL MYSELF!

I couldn’t list all the possible tools that Google Drive offers in line with that I’ve just told you, but here are my favourites. Just so you know, I base my criteria for my any of my favourite web tools on the two following statements:

  1. It doesn’t take a master’s degree to figure out how in world I am supposed to use it and what I am supposed to use it for. Let’s face it: Students won’t want to use it if it’s too complicated. That’s just reality.
  2. If he was still alive, my parrot could probably figure it out because of how freaking easy to use this tool is. Just sprinkle some millet on the keyboard and boy, are you in for a ride! (Note: this criterion is meant to be a joke, but I do look for web tools which require minimal motor control and intellectual capacities to figure out.)

With no further due, here is a list of my five favourite Google Drive tools (as mentioned on Google Drive’s blog and how I’d abuse the Hell out of those with my students:

  1. GoogleKeep: Say your students keep ”forgetting” their homework assignments’ due dates, project guidelines, class notes etc. What are you gonna do? Beat them to death with a crowbar? Tempting, I know. But GoogleKeep is another reminder that we can introduce to them. Since most students have given up the project of taking notes of what they have to do in their agendas, this baby could pretty much serve as an electronic notepad. Notes, photos, checklists.. you name it. And guess what? You can sync them to any devices so that they can be accessible from anywhere. Forgot your assignment’s guidelines? Oopsies, no oopsies. Attractive visuals make it the Gucci of notepads.
  2. GoogleForms: This one is pretty simple, in my opinion. Basically, it allows you to create questionnaires and surveys and automatically collect answers in a spreadsheet (That’s right students, you have no other choice but to participate.) Grammar quizzes, comprehension tests, self-evaluation spreadsheets… You name it. And what I absolutely LOVE about this tool is that you can sign documents electronically using HelloFax. Oh no, this student’s parents didn’t sign his exam. Oopsies! It’s not possible anymore. They can now access the file online and sign it so the teacher can know they’ve seen it. Mouahahaha!
  3. Google Slides: Another alternative to Powerpoint (just thinking about it makes me want to engage in an involuntary act of regurgitation, a.k.a. vomit). Thank the Lord. Again, just like you can with any Google Doc, you can work on these presentations offline and save them online at the same time, without even having to press the button ”save”. That’ll save us a great deal of trouble in terms of losing work in progress. So, if you accidentally click on the ”X” button while working on your presentation, it’ll save your document automatically, which Powerpoint (Gosh, this name stimulates my gag reflex…) doesn’t do.
  4. Gone Google Story Builder: You could already collaborate on Google Docs, but a few months ago, Google Drive came up with a feature especially for collaborating on stories, whether it’s novels, poems, short stories, etc. There’s even a tutorial that you can follow to get started, but it’s really easy. I’d have students collaborate on all kinds of stories, poems, scripts for video recordings, even guidelines for a debate! Again, students can collaborate on their story at the same time from different computers because they can see what the other student is doing as he is writing. No more sheep commotions around a single computer.
  5. Research inside Google Documents: Little did I know, Google Drive has recently included a research pane that allows people to search through existing Google Docs,  maps, quotes, images, and much more. Students can access the work of other students (and so can teachers…) and use it to find information for various assignments. Simple, easy, doesn’t require an IQ that’s much higher than the one of a plant. Just how I like it.

Those are my favourite but there are so many others. I would again, advise you to look at Google Drive’s blog for more tools and ideas on how to use them. There’s so much to look at, it’s worth giving it a try.

WILL I EVER STOP BLEEDING FROM BOTH EYES?

Not as long as you keep on following my blog.