Monday, January 23, 2012

The Right Tool for the Job

There is an overwhelming amount of tech applications out there that are useful for educators. However, it's sometimes difficult to know when to use each one and for which purposes. In this post, I'm going to give an overview of three of my favorite applications, summarize their purposes, and attempt to clarify the differences between them. One question I've been asked quite a bit is "Why do I need both Dropbox and Google Docs?", so that's where I'm going to begin.

Dropbox is an online file storage application that gives you access to your files from any device. Create an account at, then download the Dropbox application to all of your devices - computer, smartphone, tablet. Upload files to your Dropbox account (either through the website or the downloaded application) and organize them into folders. Dropbox will sync your files across all devices, and you'll be able to access them from anywhere. Dropbox allows you to easily share files with others. Have too many photos to send through email? Create a folder for them in Dropbox and share the entire folder. Need to share a document with someone who doesn't have a Dropbox account? Put the document in your Public folder, and Dropbox will give you a link to email or post on a webpage. Anyone with the link will be able to view your document, with or without a Dropbox account. You can view my Dropbox presentation here.

Google Docs
Google Docs not only stores your documents online, giving you access to them from anywhere, but also allows you to collaborate on documents in real-time. Create new Documents, Presentations, and Spreadsheets, or upload and convert existing Word, PowerPoint, Excel or other document types. Share documents with others, and edit them collaboratively. Organize your Google Docs into Collections (aka folders) and share entire Collections with others. Anytime you or someone else updates a Google Doc, everyone who has access to the shared file will automatically have the most updated version. My favorite type of Google Doc - Google Forms -   allows you to quickly and easily create assessments, surveys, registration forms, etc. that you can share with others by sharing a link or embedding them online. Google Docs automatically collects and organizes responses to Forms in easy-to-use Spreadsheets. You can view my Google Docs presentation here.

Why do I need both Dropbox & Google Docs?
What's the same? Online file storage, Access to files from any device
What's the difference? Google Docs allows you to collaborate on documents in real-time. If you need to share files without collaborating, Dropbox is the way to go. If you want to create collaborative documents or get input from others, use Google Docs.

Evernote is a multi-purpose application that can help you organize your life. Create Notebooks to organize pieces of information, then create Notes that could include anything from bulleted lists to clipped web pages to webcam and audio notes. I use Evernote primarily for note-taking in class and meetings as well as for brainstorming and planning. Evernote's Web Clipper is a bookmarklet that can be quickly installed in your web browser. The Web Clipper allows you to clip an entire web page or a portion of a web page (images and/or text) into a Note. Then, once your web clipping is in Evernote you can annotate and add to it. Download the Evernote application to your computer, smartphone, and tablet to access and add to your Notebooks from any device. Take a photo with your smartphone or tablet, and upload it into Evernote. Use Evernote's Search function to search for key words or phrases within your Notebooks. Evernote will even search within handwritten text found in images in your Notes. View a video introduction to Evernote or watch tutorials that will walk you through how to use Evernote's awesome features. Read below to see just a few of the ways you can use Evernote.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Edmodo as my Learning Management System

This spring, I'm teaching a course called Technology in the Classroom. The purpose of the course is to prepare pre-service teachers to integrate technology across the curriculum and use technology to enhance teaching and learning. I'm structuring the course learning experiences using tools that these pre-service teachers can use as teaching and learning tools in their future classrooms. The students will be creating and maintaining their own PLNs (Personal Learning Networks) using tools like Twitter, Blogger, and Google Reader. They will also be participating in a PLC (Professional Learning Community) throughout the semester using Edmodo.

I've set up the entire course in an Edmodo room, in the hopes that my students will develop a vision for using Edmodo in their future classrooms. The functionality of Edmodo lends itself really well to serving as an LMS (Learning Management System). I've uploaded all course documents, videos, links, and other resources into folders organized by weekly course topics. I will also be posting weekly discussion questions, polls, and quizzes pertaining to course content that students are expected to respond to and discuss online and in class. Students will submit all assignments through Edmodo, and I'll use Edmodo to maintain student grades as well as our course calendar. Collaboration is made easy through Edmodo's small group feature. I am able to create small groups within our Edmodo room for collaborative projects, small group discussions, and focused interactions. I created a rubric to evaluate students' participation through Edmodo, focusing on the quality of their responses, their references to course materials and other sources, and their online interactions with others. While the course is a face-to-face course, Edmodo will allow us to work in a blended learning environment, extending our time for interacting with course content and each other.

Five Ways to Post Something on the Wall

Edmodo Library (course materials organized in folders to the left)

Edmodo Calendar

I'd love to hear about how you're using Edmodo as a teaching and learning tool. Please leave a comment or get in touch with me via Twitter @jaymelinton.