Technology

How to Set Up a Blog With Blogger: Free Download!

Hey Everyone! I created a little handout guide for students to use when I have them set up their blogs via Blogger (Google). I use Blogger because it’s linked to Google and it makes the setup because my school is a Google Apps school.

I have some pointers as a result of trial and error in my classroom for students using blogs. I had them start blogs because I wanted to try it out, so check out these tips so you don’t make the same mistakes I did!

Tips For Having Students Start Their Own Blogs

1. Be very specific with how you want the blogs to be titled. I made the mistake of letting them choose their own title, and you can bet I ended up with some winners. And by winners, I don’t mean winners.

2. Show students examples of some blogs you think will help them get the idea (duh). For some reason I didn’t do this and was faced with blank faces that were begging to be told what a blog even is…

3. Have students watch you do some of the steps (and go over the handout), THEN give them the computers. Don’t try to explain verbally, show them, and make them do it all at the same time. It is super frustrating for everyone (including you).

4. Encourage students to help each other while setting up their blogs. I found that there was a large range in knowledge about terminology and proficiency with using computers in my classroom. Some students don’t even know what a browser is. You will definitely be tasked with helping one-on-one too, so if you have some more tech savvy students pitching in, you’ll be grateful for their help. What could take the whole class period could take about 20 minutes from start to finish. It really isn’t difficult if they know what’s expected of them.

Download the free “How to Set Up a Blog on Blogger” handout on Teachers Pay Teachers!

Do any of you have experience using blogging in the classroom? I am just getting started and would love to hear your thoughts!

Happy Blogging,

-S

 

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5 Podcasts That Will Make You Smarter and Happier Right Now

“Why aren’t you listening to podcasts when you’re doing mundane things like driving or washing the dishes?” That’s what I tell myself whenever I’m bored and doing things I would rather not be doing (like running). Seriously—podcasts have made life more interesting and me more thoughtful, and they’re free and amazing and basically you should just go listen to some right after you finish reading this.

Maybe you don’t listen to them because you don’t know where to start. And if you do listen, maybe you’re looking for some new ones. I have re-energized my teaching by using podcasts in the classroom (my students are currently making podcasts to be played on local radio ANY DAY NOW :D), but I’ll save a post for that at a later date. Right now I’m just going to share some of my faves because they’re awesome. 

Disclaimer: These podcasts made me smarter and happier. You may disagree. Listen for yourself and decide!

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The Road to National Board Certification Part 6: Teaching While Grieving and Learning More About Formatting Than I Ever Wanted to Know

December was probably one of the worst months of my life. I have lived a privileged one in that I had never, up until this month, lost someone near to me due to tragedy.

It’s 7:30 a.m. A green bubble on my phone says, “Missed Call-Dad.” It’s not like him to call me this early, but he’s a man of idiosyncrasies—maybe he bought a Christmas gift for someone and he can’t contain the secret—so I call back. My mom answers (why would she call me on his phone?) She asks me if I’m driving right now. I’m not. The first thought in my head says dad is gone.

She sobs the news, news that I receive in front of a group of high schoolers.  The juxtaposition of it is too much and I make it to the front office.  I learn that I’ve lost the equivalent of an uncle (my dad’s cousin, but more of an uncle to me). Relief washes over me, horrifyingly bittersweet. Not my dad—but my cousin’s.

Collecting everything–thoughts, tissues, breath, I explain what happened to the first person who sees me in the office and then say, “I’ve got to teach in ten minutes.” I decide that I would teach, by God—especially after being absent a day last week due to a cold.

I’ve never had to try to function at school in the immediate shadow of devastation. One of the first things on my mind was “I have to teach today because I don’t have my National Board evidence yet and time is ticking so I’ll suck it up and get through the day.” I open up my laptop in my office and I can’t do anything. I don’t even remember what my first hour is doing.  I’m convinced when my principal pulls me in and begins the ‘now what?’ process of phone calls, buying plane tickets home, somehow contacting my husband who is at work and unable to talk on the phone, that I need to go home.

I feel guilty and angry that my life’s got to eat into what I do for a living—and often. Sickness, death. In an ongoing quest to overcome perfectionism and embrace the screwed-upness of life, this is a lesson in taking care of myself and picking up the pieces when I return to school. And although I’m at school for the next four days before flying home for the funeral, I let teaching take the back-burner. I had to turn my head to the wall often because the tears kept coming at random. Not much comes to mind when I think, what did we do that week? It was a wash. After I came home from the funeral, it was time to wrap up the semester. I was backed-up on getting feedback to students form their final projects, and honestly did not get to treat everyone equally with thorough feedback. And I feel really, really guilty.

I had spurts of productivity in the past couple of weeks with board stuff. One second I think “I’ve got this!” and the next I think “I don’t got this! No way!” I spent half a day figuring out what formatting I should be using for my component two submission. After reading posts on proteacher.net about candidates failing it because they accidentally submitted one blank page instead of their writing and FREAKING OUT about the horror of that feeling (and paying 300 bucks to resubmit!), I am making sure that I cover it all.

Google Slides–Did you know that if you want to print out Google Slides with comments, you can’t? Now you know. Did you also know that if you print out the “handout” version with 4 slides on a page, it will shrink the slides down way more than they need to be (to the point where you need perfect vision to read it) and there’s nothing you can do about it? Now you know. Did you know you can import Google Slides into Powerpoint, but it will pretty much give you no benefits because it’s Powerpoint and basically worthless? Maybe you already knew that.

Dochub–I discovered this because I needed to get around Microsoft Word’s clunkiness. Upload your .doc/x to Google Drive and it will offer to open it through Dochub. It’s basically a cross between Microsoft Paint and a word processor. You can edit PDFs and all that jazz–cool!

Microsoft Word–Did you know that Google Docs won’t let you print out a doc with comments, but Microsoft Word will? Probably its only redeeming quality.

All in all, I have had an unproductive working week at home but a relationally productive week at home. I saw family and friends I haven’t seen in years. I looked at many, many photographs. I sat and watched tv with my sisters and snuggled my dog. I drive home this week to Colorado to spend time with more friends, and I am planning on getting a couple days in (hopefully) at work before we start back. The balance is hard with unstructured vacation time, but I’m thankful for it.

Amidst that, I started studying for the GRE. I am crazy. Goodnight.

 

-S

 

 

 

The infographic-making website that kept me up until 3 a.m.

Before summer school starts, I’m living up the late nighters. Except I’m just doing teacher stuff so it may not be exciting, but I sure feel rebellious.

I found Piktochart.com while I was perusing Pinterest, and decided that RIGHT NOW I had to take my ugly old Google Doc that has my expectations in it and make it into a fancy infographic because, well, why not? On the first day of school, I usually have the kids use the handout to answer Jeopardy questions instead of having them read it and then say, “are there any questions?”

This took me 3.5 hours, and I will have to make some changes before the school year because I already found a typo, but I plan to get a big version of it blown up and I’ll put it in my classroom.

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Day 2: Technology

Here’s Day 2 of the TeachThought Challenge: Write about one piece of technology you would like to try out this year, and why.  

Ever since I got my interactive whiteboard (it was like Christmas came, seriously) I have been 100% down for using technology to improve instruction. While the teaching methods do not change, the delivery and efficiency does. 

I have already written about my excitements and woes about the one-to-one iPad initiative in my current district, but I really am getting more excited about this being rolled out in January. We are moving to a new school building that can support iPad use in the classroom. We’ve had trainings to help get us rolling, but of course most of this will be trial and error. 

I believe the shift in my instruction will be concentrated around workflow. Very few paper documents will be needed, because students can (theoretically) take notes with their iPads. Their readings will (theoretically) be done on iPads. Typing essays will (theoretically, cringe) be done on iPads. While we are not required to do everything on tablets, many district-purchased resources (like books) will be available for iPad only. 

Most importantly, students will be given a tool to engage with one another in a current and relevant way: discussion boards, comments, emails. I hope to start a blog where students are engaged via discussion boards on our “essential question.” Teaching them how to engage in logical discourse is important, and so much of it happens online every day. 

IPads will give me a tool to create and administer quick entrance/exit slips, as well as surveys. This will make formative assessment less hectic (too many times has a student turned in a rushed exit slip on my desk, only to be lost forever).

All in all, the content and process will be the same, but the tools will not.

What about you, teachers? What’s a piece of technology you are excited to incorporate?

-S

(P.S., day two of the challenge is pretty rough…teaching for 8 hours and a few more of work to go…)  

Teacher Talk: To Tablet or not to Tablet?

I recently went to a training for my district for using Ipads in the classroom. Come January, we will be one-to-one Ipads, all day, e’rryday. I’m psyched because my kids will actually have a way to compose something in class on a piece of technology. I don’t ask for much. But in these trainings, the tension was thick! Many teachers think it’s a waste of money. Many see them being more of a distraction than a learning tool. Many do not believe that changing the form in which you drive instruction will make a difference. And there are just as many who disagree.

I’m not sure what camp I’m in, but I know from experience in my classroom that if we’ve got a screen then the kids don’t have to stare at me—and we’re all a bit happier for that.

It’s not easy to be beautiful at 6 a.m.

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