Taking Notes on the iPad to Make Observations of Students in the Classroom

Last year, we were looking for notetaking software to make observations of students in the classroom.

  • We wanted an organization system that was quick and easy to use.
  • We wanted an easy way to find information from our notes.
  • We wanted a way to be able to share and collaborate with other colleagues.

In short, we wanted a quick and easy way to take notes on an iPad in the classroom. (A lot of us bring our iPads to school; Here are some reasons why iPads should be used in the classroom.)

  • How to use WriteRoom, TextExpander, and DropBox to quickly and easily take notes on your iPad that you can access from anywhere and share with anyone.
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    Use Special Text Boxes on Your Class Website to Alert Parents and Students to Important Information.

    We love WordPress. It’s our favorite tool to create professional looking class websites.

    Last week, we were helping one of our colleagues set up her class website for kindergarten. One of the things that she wanted was to a little box at the top of her website where she could post important information for parents and little reminders of things to do.

    The great thing about WordPress is that there are hundreds of attractive themes out there to choose from. (Heck, there are over 1400 themes to choose from in the official WordPress.org theme directory.) Chances are, you can find a theme that you like.

    WordPress Warning! (Expand for more information)
    WordPress Warning!

    If your class website is on WordPress.com, or Edublogs.org, then your choices will be limited to whatever themes that they have already installed for you. In order to install your own themes, you’ll need to run a self hosted WordPress website. (Or, if you’re a teacher on our Educircles network, drop us a note here with a link to your favorite theme from the WordPress theme directory, and we’ll look into installing it for you.)

    When we told another colleague about all the things that WordPress had to offer, he was a bit surprised because he had only seen the themes already pre-installed on his Edublogs.org account. He had an iPad, so we explained it in terms of things he knew.

    • Using a WordPress.com or Edublogs.org account is like borrowing or renting an iPad from a friend. It’s still an iPad, but you’re limited to the apps that your friend has installed for you (even though there are millions of other apps available from the iTunes Store.) Assuming your friend won’t let you install whatever apps you want, your options are either 1) to buy your own iPad, or 2) to find a friend that will let you install the apps that you want.
    • To bring this analogy back your classroom website, if you want to install any theme or plug-in (WordPress app) that you want, then you need to either run your own (self hosted) WordPress site, or find a friend that lets you install the theme or plug-in that you want. (At Educircles, we run a private network of classroom websites for teachers. For security reasons, we won’t give you the power to install your own theme or plug-in, but if you put in a support request, we’re pretty reasonable about installing new themes – and plug-ins, depending on which plug-in.)

    Our kindergarten colleague used WordPress for her class website last year. She used the 2010 Weaver theme which is a great theme that offers a lot of customization options, including a special sidebar for widgets just above the post.

    (That’s how she was able to initially put an information box for her parents about classroom supplies or important paperwork that needed to be returned.) This year, she’s using a different theme that didn’t offer a sidebar below the main title – so we needed to find another way to make her information for parents stand out.

    A sidebar is that narrow, vertical menu bar that you see on the right side of websites (including ours). You can fill it with useful information, links to posts, ads, or other things. These little boxes of information are called widgets.

    Usually you find sidebars on the side of websites, but you can also find them horizontally at the top or bottom of websites as well.

    Unfortunately, the theme which this teacher chose this year (third style) didn’t have a sidebar horizontally at the top of the webpage, so we decide to get creative and to make a generic welcome post stick to the top of her blog. We planned to put our welcome and information messages inside of this sticky post.

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    Should Students Use a Pseudonym or Their Real Name When Working Online in the Classroom

    Imagine a world where people don’t judge you based on your race, your gender, the way you look, or the clothes you wear… Instead, you’re judged based on the quality of your ideas and how well you’ve expressed them. That’s one of the potential benefits in having your students use an anonymous pseudonym when writing online.

    Now imagine a world where people are lulled into a false sense of security because they are hiding behind a pseudonym and think they cannot be held accountable for the comments they make online… That’s one of the potential problems in having your students blog online without using their real name.

    As more and more teachers start integrating technology into the classroom and begin playing with class websites and student blogs, the question comes up: should teachers have students use a pseudonym or their real name when posting content online?

    Using a pseudonym to change the messenger is nothing new. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, used the pseudonym of PlannedChaos to try to clear up harmful misconceptions about himself. When the moderators on Metafilter forced his hand, Adams came out and then posted a response on his blog:

    “…the messenger changes the message.… The messenger with a strong self-interest is automatically non-credible and should be. There are some types of information that can only be communicated by an unbiased messenger.”

    SteveoM’s comments on Adam’s blog (April 20, 2011) sums it up quite nicely: “that’s both the beauty and danger of the Internet, anonymity.”

    We publish our ideas online using both pseudonyms and our real name. (For example, Mr. Kuroneko is a pseudonym.) Over the past few years, we’ve also allowed students to publish their work online using their real name, a generic student ID, as well as pseudonyms of their own choosing.

    Last week, we were helping teachers to set up their class websites and the question came up whether you’re allowed (or should) use your students’ real names as their student logins. Last month, a visitor to this site asked why we thought it was a good idea to have a pseudonym. As we gear up for a new school year of class blogging and online literature circles, now seems as good a time as any to think about the pros and cons of having your students publish their work online using their real names.

    (Of course, you need to check with your school administration, your school board’s policies, your parental consent forms and media release forms which will all dictate whether student work can be published and how credit should be attributed to the student – for example, first name only, full name, etc.)

    Having said that, here are some things to think about when having your students post content online.

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