Monday, October 29, 2012

Teaching Channel

This past weekend I attended the Fall CUE (Computer Using Educators) conference in the Bay Area. One of the sessions I participated in was on the topic of the Common Core Standards. One of the presenters mentioned an excellent online resource to help you and the teachers at your school prepare for the shift to the Common Core: Teaching Channel. The website is full of video lessons and tutorials along with the teacher handouts and resources mentioned in each video. In essence, it is a free professional development library totally devoted to the Common Core Standards.

If you click on any video, you are immediately taken to a separate page where you can view the lesson or tutorial of your choice. Along with the video player, each video lists the lesson objective, length, questions to consider, and the Common Core Standard related to the resource. Below the video player you will find any supporting materials mentioned and a discussion thread about the video. Currently users are not allowed to download videos, but you can share them via popular social networks, embed them on other websites, or send a link to the video through email.

One of the best features of Teaching Channel is the ability to sort the videos by subject, grade, and topic. As a middle school English Language Arts teacher, I was able to find fifty videos related to my subject and grade level. The videos range in length from two minutes for quick lesson tips or up to thirty minutes for larger topics.

Teaching Channel is a great resource for department collaboration time. The video lessons and tutorials are not presented in a "this-is-how-to-teach-it-correctly" tone, but instead are starters for discussion and fuel for your own ideas. If you are looking for a way to learn more about the Common Core or want to view lessons in action, visit this feature and content rich online professional development resource.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Quizlet: Creating Amazing Flashcards

Quizlet is a flashcard site that makes it easy to study any subject for free. This web tool allows a user to create a flashcard set for any subject and immediately begin studying terms and definitions. The power of Quizlet is how easy it is to create a flashcard set and the features available once the set is created.

To begin with, you don't even have to create an account to preview Quizlet's features. On the front page of the website you can test drive its features using one of the sample sets. The most basic mode allows the user to quickly flip through the terms and definitions and begin learning the content. Each set gives you the option of viewing the term first, or both sides at the same time if you are running through the cards for the first time.

But it is the other features that make Quizlet such a powerful tool for teachers and students. The first feature is a "Speller" mode, which allows the user to listen to a term and then type in the correct spelling. Next is the "Test' mode which assesses the users knowledge of the set with fill in the blank, multiple choice, or True and False formats. "Learn" mode is similar to "Speller" mode without the audio pronunciation. Finally, there are two game modes called "Scatter" and "Space Race." The first game scatters the terms and definitions across the screen and the user has to drag the correct term to its corresponding definition. The second game is a timed race where the user has to type in the term before the definition moves across the screen. The amazing thing is that all of these modes are available as soon as a set is created.

Creating a flashcard set is dead simple. Type the term in the first box and Quizlet will even offer to provide a list of definitions to choose from. Flashcard sets can be created in a variety of different languages and foreign language study is one of the top uses of the website. If you are studying a very common topic, such as SAT vocabulary prep, you search for sets created by other users. Frequently other users have already created a set for the topic that the user needs to master.

Quizlet has a few advanced features. You can add images to a flashcard set by searching through the free images available on the site, or you can upload your own images by signing up for a Plus account for fifteen dollars a year. Quizlet also allows you to create different classes and share flashcard sets with particular groups of students. User created sets can also be embedded on a website or blog.

I have used Quizlet for many years and I am constantly finding new uses for it. I have included a sample set I created for my students. So sign up for a free account and have fun creating flashcard sets for you or your students.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Downloading Videos

I frequently come across videos on websites that I think would make a great part of a lesson, but the website is blocked by an internet filter (i.e. YouTube).  When I come across this situation, I turn to a very helpful Firefox add-on called "Video Downloadhelper." This little utility adds the ability to download to your hard drive most videos on webpages.

The add-on automatically detects when a video is present, and the three colored spheres in the logo begin to rotate. Just click on the animated spheres and you will see the name of the video file playing. Click on the file name, and the video will immediately begin downloading. On sites like YouTube, you will even be presented with different file types and video qualities for the same clip. You can then put the video file on a flash drive and use it as part of your lesson.

Video Downloadhelper


Video clips can often serve as great introductions to units, concepts, or literary themes. Unfortunately, it is difficult to locate quality clips that meet the needs of the lesson you might be teaching on a given day. That is where Wingclips comes in.

This website has a large collection of clips from popular movies, past and present, arranged by theme. When you visit the website, one of the first things you will see is a slider on the left-hand side of the webpage. Simply drag the slider up and down to locate the theme you need. Once you click on the theme, you will be taken to a list of clips that fit that topic. Each clip is playable and can be viewed full screen. Downloads of clips can be purchased on the site. But for most classroom needs, simply playing the clip in order to stimulate discussion about a topic is probably enough.

So the next time you are looking for a video clip to help your students engage in a topic, give Wingclips a try.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Creating Classroom Posters

Last year one of my students wore a t-shirt with a thoughtful quote: "Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard." I immediately wanted to put the quote up in my classroom so that students would read it and be challenged by its message. I thought of making a poster, but realized that our poster making machine no longer worked. But then I remembered the website This great web tool easily creates a poster from any image a user uploads. The poster is "blocked," that is the image is pixelated when viewed up close, but looks excellent when viewed from a distance. A quick search on Google images provided a large number of pictures with the quote. I downloaded an image and immediately got to work creating my poster. walks you through three easy steps to create your poster. First, you upload the image from your hard drive. Next, you choose how many pages wide you want the poster to be and what size of paper you will use. Finally, you download a PDF containing your image. I would recommend checking the PDF file to make sure your poster was created correctly and then find a color printer to actually print out the file. It takes some time and patience to assemble the sheets of paper, but when you are finished you have a pretty good poster for your classroom.

Below I have included a link to the poster that I created using the quote mentioned in this post.

Hard Work Beats Talent Poster

Thursday, May 3, 2012

5 Dropbox tips

By now, most of us have used dropbox to sync and share files with others. In this post, I want to share with you five things you can do with Dropbox that you may not be aware of. Most of the tips I am going to share will require you to login to the web based version of Dropbox. To sign-in to the website, use the username and password you signed up with when joining DropBox.

The best first step is to install DropBox at home if you haven't already. That way you can keep all of your files between work and home synced. I find that using DropBox at work and home means I never have to carry around a flash drive.

A free dropbox account comes with 2 GB of storage. But after using the service for a year or more, you may be discovering that you are running out of room in your Dropbox. Luckily, there are ways to increase your space for free. First, you can share Dropbox with others. After signing in, you will see a "Get More Space" link at the top of the web page. If you click on the link, you will see instructions for sharing DropBox with others. Each person who joins earns you an extra 500mb. They also have a new photo upload feature in beta which can also earn you more space. You can read about this feature and how it can earn you more space at

DropBox can also be used as an inbox for student assignments. Students can turn in assignments to you even if they don't have Dropbox. If you go to you can sign up for a free account. This allows students to send things to your Dropbox account and saves the hassle and waste of printing out assignments.

You can also use the service to share large files. Many email programs limit the size of an attachment, but Dropbox allows you to share any file with one simple link. There are two ways to obtain the link. The first is to login to the website and click on the file you want to share. You will see a link icon appear at the right. Or you can right-click on a file in your desktop folder and click on the Dropbox option. Then choose "Get Link." Now that you have a link to the file, you can email the link to another person and they will be able to download the file.

Finally, you can always restore a file that was accidentally deleted. In your account just click on the trash can icon to see a list of deleted files. You can restore any file in this list to your Dropbox folder.

I hope these tips help you get more use out of Dropbox.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I am frequently discovering new websites. I find websites to use with students, to increase my knowledge on a particular topic, or information to read later. The trick is keeping track of all these web resources. Usually people bookmark websites they want to return to later, but then the list of links is trapped on the computer it was created on. Therefore, I use a browser add-on called Diigo to keep track of the websites I bookmark. This add-on not only keeps all of your links in one place, but you can also access them from any computer via the Diigo website. In addition, you can tag each link and then share them with others.

You can also use Diigo to search for resources on a particular topic. I have recently been researching information on the Common Core Standards, and the public bookmarks collected on the Diigo website have been an excellent resource.

If you have trouble remembering all of the web resources you find, Diigo might just be the solution for you. I have included a link to my bookmarks about the Common Core Standards as an example below.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Audioboo: Record and Share Audio

This week i want to introduce you to an app i have started using called Audioboo. The company tagline is that it is the simplest way to share audio. Audioboo works with Android, Nokia, and Apple devices. If you don't have a smart phone, you can also record directly in your web browser. I have been using the iPad app, but the process works the same with another smartphones or the Audioboo website. Simply open the app, click on the record button, and begin talking into the microphone. When you're done with your recording, press stop, and then click the upload button. You can then go to the Audioboo website to view the audio clip that you created. You can share the audio file via Twitter, email, or there's also an embed button so that you can embed the clip into other websites. Right now, I am using the app to create audio agendas of what we do in class each day. This helps students who are absent and need to make up the work they missed that day. The agenda takes no more than two minutes to record. I'm also thinking of using Audioboo to create book talks with students. Students will describe and evaluate books they have read, and other students will be able to listen to their opinions. I'm sure that there are many other ways to use Audioboo. But these are the two ways that I'm using it currently. Below I have embedded an Audioboo of this TechTip.

You can also view my class website to see how the Audioboo player looks when embedded on a webpage.

Techtip Audioboo (mp3)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Creating Secure and Easy to Remember Passwords

With all of the websites teachers have to sign-in to these days, it is easy to forget your password. Luckily there is a way to create passwords that are both easy to remember and secure. This tip can also work for teaching students how to create passwords. Just click on the link below and watch the tutorial.

Getting the Most Out of a Google Search

The folks over at HackCollege recently posted an excellent infographic about how to get the most out of a google search. I frequently use the tips they provide. For example, I was looking for a list of subjects to help students create theme sentences. I used the search parameter “filetype:pdf” and then searched for “theme list.” I found an excellent list of over 100 subjects that students could use to discover a theme in literature. The infographic would also be an excellent resource to share with students.

Downloading Videos from YouTube

This post is an update of a tip I provided last year. YouTube is an excellent resource for teachers looking to add multimedia content to their PPTs, flipcharts, or other presentation formats. Since YouTube contains videos that range from educational content to the bizarre to videos that are offensive, it is understandably blocked in school districts. But a teacher can still include worthwhile content discovered at home in a lesson for students by downloading the video and inserting it into the lesson content. Probably the easiest way to do this is to use In order to download the video you only need the URL of the video in question (ex. and an email address. Visit and click on the “Download Videos” tab and paste in the URL of the video. Choose the format you want to convert the video to since YouTube uses Flash Video as default, and enter your email address. You will shortly receive an email from that contains a link to download the video. Now you can insert the video into your presentation software and watch your students become more engaged in your lessons.