Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Draftin - an Online Writing Tool

Draft, at Draftin.com, is an online writing tool that focuses on a writers progression through several drafts of a writing project, keeping track of each one as the writer moves along.

A simple email and password are required to join.  The site offers very limited formatting options so the writing focus is on the content, not the look.  In fact, you have the choice of a couple of fonts and sizes, and that is it.  There is no underline, no boldface, no italic, no color, no images, no fonts.  Just writing.  Even the logo is very simple.

The process could go something like this.  You start out by typing your first rough draft.  Come back a day later and make changes.  Then a few days later make additional changes for a second revision.

Finally, you send it off to a peer for their input.  They provide their revision, however, you have the ability to accept which ever revisions you'd like, from just 1 to all the suggested revisions.

At anytime you can review any of the prior revisions of the document, and even revert back.  All revisions are maintained for reference.  Here is an example of a document I revised, revised again, and had peer reviewed.

You can export your document to a variety of online services like Google Drive, Drop Box, or Evernote.  Once exported, any further revisions done in draft can be synced to the exported document.

This tool offers great possibilities for young writers learning the draft revise process of perfecting a piece their writing.  In fact, it's fairly good for those of you that are more advanced.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Google Reading Levels

Working with Intermediate students searching Google for information about the Civil War, or Lewis and Clark, sometimes is a daunting task when resource after resource comes back in a reading level too high for elementary readers.

Use Google Reading Level settings to help narrow your search.  The levels aren't necessarily associated to grade levels or Lexile scores, but it's a start.

For example you may want to search for Lewis and Clark, which will return results similar to these listed below.

Find the Advanced Search button (gear shift icon in upper right).  

Out of the Advanced Search options find Reading Level and make your selection.

The new results will have Reading Level breakdowns listed by percentages.  From here click on Basic, Intermediate, Advanced, or "All" to see particular selections of interest.

Remember, be more descriptive in your searches by adding additional keywords to narrow your search.  For example when I search for Lewis and Clark, do I mean explorers, or the college?  The additional keywords will be very helpful.

Friday, April 5, 2013

PicMonkey Chrome Extension - Easy Photo Editing

Google Chrome Browser has many handy extensions.  One that I recently came across and have really enjoyed is the PicMonkey extension.  I like to use the PicMonkey site for quick photo editing. No account setup needed, just pull your photo in, edit, and then save back to your computer.  
A Little On Extensions and How to Find Them:                                 You can find extensions in the Chrome Web Store, which can be found on your apps page of home screen when using Chrome in a few places.  As you can see on the right, I have the Web Store on the main page, as well as the ability to access it in the lower right hand corner of the screen.   When extensions are added to your Chrome Browser, you can find them as small icons at the end of your address bar (see upper right hand corner of image).  

Once in the Chrome Web Store you can search the store by categories, by name (if you know what you want), as well as filtering by either app or extension.  Apps essentially are quick shortcuts that take you straight to a certain site, where as extensions are tools that you can utilize while on any page.  
Once you find the extension you are searching for, tap the button "Add to Chrome" and it will install the Extension for you.                                  

Now Back to the PicMonkey Extension

When on a page that contains photos (below I'm on Google Images), I can click on the extension icon at the top right.  It will then generate a drop down of all the images on that page.  By clicking on the small image in the drop down, I am then immediately taken to the PicMonkey website with that image already loaded ready to edit.  

As you can see in the image below, the workspace in PicMonkey has a lot of great options.  Quickly rotate or crop, add text or stickers, frames, adjust brightness...

As always, make sure that you are using photos correctly, following copyright and fair use guidelines.  In Google Images advanced settings, you can adjust the filtering to all for only "free to use or share".  We have a post on where to find this option "Free Image Search with Google".

Infuse Learning - turn Computers, Smart Phones, or iDevices into Clickers!

We did a write up on Infuse Learning on iDevice in the Mountains at the end of last year.  
It's such a handy website, I thought it would be great to post here as well.  
This site that can be used on any internet accessible device, 
giving teachers the ability to utilize whatever is available to them in their schools.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Math Millionaire

It's Spring and many classrooms are in the depths of standardized testing.  Math Millionaire is a great game that offers a challenge for Intermediate students, grades 3-5, as they review many concepts they may encounter on an end of year test.

After each question is answered correctly, the participant's status is raised up to the next level.  After they correctly answer 15 questions without a mistake, they will make it to a million.

Questions cover a variety of problems you may find appropriate for this age group, including identifying numbers in a sequence, working with temperature or time, and perimeter or area problems.  

One strategy is to have students work in pairs, thus allowing them to talk through the solution.  It becomes vital that students check and verify their work, otherwise it is too often they make it part way up before starting over from the bottom.

A great motivational tool to get students to practice.  One boy told his teacher "I'm going home to practice so I can come to school and show you I can make a million".  Imagine that, no homework yet they go home to practice math.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Word Sift - Play with Words!

I enjoy using word clouds for a variety of projects with students.  Recently while at a conference, I attended a session by Ramsey Musallam (www.cyclesoflearning.com) who shared a lot of great stuff!  One of the many tools he shared with us was WordSift .  I thought I had heard of all the word cloud generators.  But this one is different and a great tool for any classroom.   
As you can see below, I cut and pasted a blog post from our iPad blog into WordSift .  It then sifted my post and created a tagcloud of the 50 most common words (notice no "and"s "the"s, etc...).  Based on the text size, you can easily visualize what word I used the most in that post!
But beyond creating a cloud of words, the tools included take this word cloud generator to a new level of usefulness.  No, it doesn't make it into heart shapes or fun colors, but it makes "playing" with the words more interactive.  
Below I clicked on the word "writing" in my tag cloud.  From that, under my cloud, it found images for the word "writing" as well as mapping it using the Visual Thesaurus widget.   Pretty nifty!

But then there is the power of the Workspace!
Under the tagcloud box there is an option to "Create Workspace" (circled in the image below).  By creating a workspace for the words I can click and drag the words and move them about.   

And not just words, but I can pull images into my workspace as well!  As you can see below, I clicked on the word "student" on my workspace, images for student were generated in the box below, and then by clicking "Make Images Draggable" I then was able to drag photos to my work space. 
And finally (for now) when I click on any of the words in my workspace or tagcloud, I also am given examples of where that word appears in the passage that I used for the WordSift .  This is a great way to identify different ways a certain word was used.  
This would be great for all subject areas by allowing students to visualize and see the words they are discussing, whether high school students analyzing a piece of work written by someone else or first graders brainstorming what they think is happening in a picture.  WordSift was created for teachers and their site includes ideas for more ways of using their tool in the classroom.