March 6th, 2011
Despite my love for computers, I’m not strong when it comes to typing. The idea of retyping something makes me cringe.
That’s why I was so happy to stumble upon Online OCR.
Out with the old and in with the new
Using optical character recognition (OCR), this site will take any old document that you’ve scanned in as a PDF and convert it to editable text.
December 10th, 2010
Take a look at this week’s cover of Newsweek which featured an article by Michelle Rhee. Rhee, former chancellor of schools in Washington, D.C., writes about the need for school reform nationwide. Yet, there she sits on newsstands throughout the country in a staged but dated view of the classroom.
If I asked you to image heath care reform, what pictures would you conjure up in your mind? Is it a nurse in an all white uniform sporting the white nurse’s cap? Would your nurse be standing in front of a 1940s era operating table?
How about transportation reform? Do you think of a family getting into a 1957 Chevy Bel Air?
Would you imagine energy reform with the coal dusted faces of miners? I doubt any of these images come to mind.
Yet we continue to depict education with images of old-time desks, rundown chalkboards, and a stack of weathered books.
This does nothing to show Americans the new challenges our schools face. These images only teach the public that school is just like it was when they were there.
It cements the idea that “what was good enough for students in my day is good enough for students today.”
October 18th, 2010
It has been about a month since we changed our electronic devices policy at our school but I’m still catching student using their phones in class.
However, I approve of most of the use (as shown below).
Yet, a few students have tried to sneak texting sessions at the wrong time. At first I was disappointed. I thought, “We had an agreement.”
However, I quickly remembered that my students are still getting use to their new found freedoms.
From now on, I plan to give a “gadgets in school” speech every few weeks. Like most rules, we all need reminders from time to time.
October 5th, 2010
I use Readability to display news stories in class.
Readability is a simple tool that makes reading on the Web more enjoyable by removing the clutter around what you’re reading.
Go from this:
September 30th, 2010
Good news everyone! My school just got Wi-Fi throughout the building. However, I think it’s only a matter of time before someone asks, “what’s all that Wi-Fi going to do to our bodies?”
Some people take the question even farther and claim to have electromagnetic hypersensitivity or EHS. The ‘victims’ of EHS claim to experience all sorts of symptoms from headaches to skin rashes to nausea. However, the connection between the symptoms and the radio waves have been difficult to detect.
…not one of 46 blind and double-blind studies of EHS has identified a credible correlation between the ailments and any radio wave or magnetic field.
Psychiatry researcher James Rubin refers to EHS as a “nocebo effect.” Without evidence, people worry that something new will cause problems and they begin to look for those problems. It’s starting with something to blame and later finding a reason to blame it.
The trouble is that this sort of logic doesn’t require evidence to start pointing fingers in our school. Congested? Blame the new markers. Headache? Maybe its the new volleyballs in gym class.
If we have to blame something that ails us, I say we pick large class sizes.
September 22nd, 2010
Want to share a website but the URL is just too long? Try Snipurl.
There are many URL shortening sites available but I like Snipurl the best because it allows you to create custom URLs without having to create an account.
September 14th, 2010
Spock was always messing around with his Tricorder when the Enterprise crew explored a new planet but everyone knew that it was a tool that could help the crew learn.
It would be "illogical" to go without it
Just imagine if Spock’s Vulcan school had restrictions like our cell phone bans when he was growing up.
We’d all be speaking Klingon!
September 7th, 2010
"Principles of Physics" from Kinetic Books
One study suggests that tablets, e-readers, online learning, and pricing are leading a shift that will make one out of five textbooks digital by 2014.
My physics students gave up the old paper books in 2008 when we switch to our new “text” from Kinetic Books. I’ve been quite happy with the product. The new system still provides students with traditional text but it also includes narrated animations, interactive problems, virtual labs and online assessments. Our digital text provides content in a variety of ways by helping each student learn new physics concepts in a style that works best for the individual student.
Even with their multimedia capabilities, digital textbooks have a lot of room to grow. Here are a few things I’d like to see:
- A system that starts with an interview of each student. It finds out what the student’s interests are and generates the book’s content around this profile. If the student plays the saxophone, then his unit on waves will feature music. Another student who likes to fish might see ocean waves as the focus of her waves unit.
- Open the books up for socializing. The digital books should allow students to see what other students are saying about the material as they move through a unit. Students vote up what they liked and found interesting. A student could highlight parts of her text and leave comments about that section for her teacher, just her friends or study group, her entire class or all the students in the world using the same digital book. No earthquakes in Wisconsin, that’s okay. Your friends in California can give you some perspective.
- Allow students to add content. Now your text comes with the stock photo of a hailstone along with the other five that were submitted by students.
- Collaboration is a must. Imagine laboratory investigations and projects that allow your students to have partners in another part of the world.
- Access the digital book anywhere. The worst thing is five digital books that run on five different platforms. I want a digital textbook that wants to be everywhere- much like magazines that have successfully gone digital. You can get content from Wired magazine via your computer, phone, iPad and TV. Textbooks should offer students the same flexibility.
August 31st, 2010
Four out of five teachers know what this student is doing.
Photo from Blaise Alleyne - http://flic.kr/p/6xJSQL
After working on a presentation for my students about using mobile devices in school, there are a few things I’ve decided to emphasize when I talk to them at the start of new school year.
- Teachers can usually tell when students are sneaking looks at their mobile devices.
- When they’re using a mobile device, I’m going to expect students to ask themselves, “Is this really the right time?”
- If they have to sneak, it is the wrong time to be using a mobile device in class.
So when is it okay to use mobile devices in class? Simple. Anytime teachers think that it can help students learn.
Mobile devices have quickly become part of our daily life. A quick text message can put sites like Google to work for our students without a trip to the computer lab. More and more students will start the new school year with smart phones that run apps that make text messaging look like a stone tablet when we look at how engaging and functional they are. We need to put these devices to good use.
The trade-off for integrating these tools into the classroom is that we’ll have to teach students when it is and is not appropriate to use mobile devices in class. I think these lessons are worth it. And who knows, maybe our lessons in restraint will stick with students when they’re at movie theaters, restaurants, dinner tables, or even their own graduation ceremony.
April 28th, 2010
Make Ear Contact
A few weeks ago I went on vacation in New York City. Naturally, I used the subway as my major mode of transportation. There’s an unwritten rule on the subway- no eye contact. I’m not saying New Yorkers are unfriendly but people keep to themselves while in transit by staring off into space or keep their head down in an exhausted stance.
New since my last NYC visit is the increased use of headphones. It looks like the new rule is don’t make ear contact. I suppose it’s good practice if you want a peaceful, uninterrupted commute to your next destination but it’s not a behavior you should employ when interacting with other.
Yet I see more and more students doing this. They’ll come to me before school and try to talk to me with headphones still in their ears. I’ve seen students walking home from school with plugged ears while carrying out a conversation. It’s like telling your friend, “I’m listening to you until my iPod serves up something better.”
We’ll no more. The new Gadget School rule is Make Ear Contact.
Explain to students that it is rude to talk to others with headphones on. When in conversation, they must give others their full attention. Eyes AND ears.