Sunday, August 30, 2015

6 Online Resources for Virtual PD

Professional development can be easier than you thought. Typically, when PD comes to mind you think of the traditional conference, or huge meeting where a speaker tells you about some topic relevant to education. Sometimes these are useful and helpful, other times, unfortunately, you discover they are not that great. I occasionally run PD opportunities for teachers on integrating technology. My mantra is always..."please don't let this suck, don't make it be one of THOSE" I think you all know what I mean by "THOSE."

 Professional development opportunities are tricky to find and tricky to attend. It often requires you to be out of the classroom away from your students. It's a bit funny how it works, you typically leave the school and your students for a day to learn how to better do something with your school and your students. You would think that it would work better if you were in your classroom with your students and the PD came to you.

Well, it can, with some creativity. I have found some great PD opportunities online and have been able to squeeze them in, without leaving my classroom, or ditch my students, and haven't had to spend a ton of money. Here's the magical acronym MOOC. I imagine that is not a new term for anyone, regardless, a MOOC or massive open online course is an opportunity to participate in a PD or furthering education courses related to your profession. There are a ton of free MOOC's and a ton of organizations that offer great courses. Here is a short list of a few places for some great Education MOOC's that can be used for PD.

Coursera is a place to access free online courses offered by known colleges. Some topics many not specifically be geared toward teachers, but I bet you could find something useful. I have singed up for courses only to be able to access more materials that I might be able to use with my students.

Udemy is another place to access free online courses in various topics. Again, they are not specifically only education related courses. However, many of the courses are free, provide great resources and can be used for professional development or just for your own enrichment.

PBS Teacherline
PBS Teacherline is geared directly for educators. There are a variety of courses, some which are free, some are paid, and some are available for course credit.

ScholasticU is a cool resource for teachers, however, it is pricey for an individual. I don't know about you, but my classroom budget is fairly small. Enough to obtain the necessities. This tool is really geared towards use within multiple schools in the district. If you look at the pricing chart, you'll notice that the price breakout is per school. You would be better off approaching your administration of superintendent and presenting the benefits of online options to them. School administrators want us in our classrooms working with students and they want us to continue to learn how to be better teachers, it should be an easy persuasive conversation to set up an account, hopefully. Regardless, there are great opportunities through this resource.

ASCD has a large selection of professional development for teachers and is very reasonable priced. They do not offer courses for graduate credit, this is strictly professional development opportunities. However, the topics they offer are intriguing and the course I attended offered great ideas and resources.

Teachers First
Teachers First is a great place to take a course without doing much at all. You essentially sign up for a course, kick back and watch. The courses gain you access to moderators discussing the topic at hand and share the information through live videos. It is just like being in one of those professional development opportunities that school administrators provide for you, except you don't have to leave your classroom and can fit it in when it is convenient for you.

There are other sites and resources out there, but these sites listed here are places that I have used and have liked using for professional development. In my opinion, online PD is a huge time saver and money saver. You will not need to leave school for the day and arrange a substitute, you won't have to pay for a course, pay to travel, pay for food and then hope that the course is worthwhile. If you are looking for taking courses for credit, I would look through the PBSteacherline resource. There are great courses for credit, and the prices are not too bad.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Publitas, a pdf publisher for large documents.

I stumbled across Publitas today. It is a a very cool PDF publisher and viewer that enables the user to upload and share very large documents. It is marketed as a digital catalog, magazine, and brochure publisher and viewer, but it also works really well for large ebooks.

In the past, I've promoted ISSUU for it's simplicity, and unique viewer. I still like and use ISSUU, but recently I ran into a snag. The digital document I wanted to share with students was too large for my free account. So I thought I would just use Google. Unfortunately, the document was also too large for the Google pdf viewer. I tried Scribd, but the upload never completed. So I thought I would try adding an add-on to Drive that would open the document. That worked, but then I wasn't able to share the document through Google Classroom to send students directly to the reading. They would have to go to classroom, follow the link to drive, make sure they have the same add-on installed, then make sure to "open with" the appropriate add-on before they could view the document.  I don't' know about you, but if some of my students have a multi step process just to access work, they "check out" before they even start.

So, I searched around and stumbled across Publitas. Again, it is marketed as a free pdf catalog, brochure and magazine viewer. I contemplated the obnoxious size of a catalog and concluded that there is no way my earth science open document is as large as a catalog, so it should work fine.  I made an account and uploaded my first document. And, just like that, problem solved.  I  now have an online viewer, similar to ISSUU than can host and share documents larger than 100 MB. Best of all, it is easy to share to students. If you have the rights to a document that is too large for other online readers, try Publitas. It was quick to set up, quick to publish, and quick to share documents.

Monday, August 24, 2015

3 Tools For The First Day

As many of you know, a new school year is upon us. Like most teachers I do take some time off. However, most of my summer is dedicated to teaching at a unique school that does not use overwhelming technology tools with students. The philosophy of the school is to kindle communication through socialization and vocational education. Allow me to rephrase that, we teach students to use different technology tools to provide tangible results, such as various hand tools, carpentry tools, various farm equipment, and the most important tool, your own voice for communication. As I start my new school year, I  reflect on my summer experiences and the emerging tech I used last year. Here is a quick list of tools I plan to use on day one with my students.

Socrative: This is a great student response tool, but on the first day, I plan to have a space race with some basic science questions and few tricky logic questions thrown in there. I'm not sure what the winning team will get yet. It will most likely be something simple, like some big hero 6 stickers or frozen stickers. Who knows, maybe I'll award them with some impromptu poppin'.

Google Classroom: I use Google classroom as my virtual classroom. It doesn't have as many public features and parental involvement options like schoology might have, but it is a nice tool to streamline google apps. I use Google classroom to share my course syllabus, any paperwork that needs to get home, and of course for classroom discussions and assignments. I find it to be a very simple way to create a pseudo virtual classroom.

Google Maps/Earth: I teach earth science. This is a solid tool for almost everything in earth science. I have students make maps for climate, weather, natural resources, geology, plate tectonics, stream morphology...etc. I would argue that this is my "workbook" for my classroom. On day one, we will make a map of our local area naming mountains, lakes, rivers, streams...etc. It's a fun activity to introduce the tool for more than stalking a friend on street view. I group Earth and Maps together because they talk to each other fairly well, and each tool offers it's own strengths. I won't go into the two here (keep an eye out for a future post.)

The final tool we will use will guessed it, our own voices for communication. It's an underestimated piece of technology, yet, many students forget how to use this tool and forget how to interact face-to-face. So, I have a unique challenge planned out, one that takes away your sight and only relies on your voice to communicate your needs. Lets face it, as a student you need to be able to voice your concerns, otherwise you're left behind, even though we aren't supposed to leave any child behind, so if you learn to communicate Every Child Achieves.

Day 2 will be saved for all the boring paperwork, developing classroom expectations, discussing the "no grading" grading policy, discussing my "no homework" homework policy, and most importantly discussing the expectation to have fun while learning.