Happy holidays to you and your family from blog.classroomteacher.ca.
If you’re a teacher that lives around here (Ontario, Canada), then chances are you’ve just begun your two weeks of winter holiday: A chance to spend time with family, loved ones, and friends. And hopefully a chance to work on some classroom technology projects, that you just haven’t gotten around to during the school year.
2011 has been a productive year for this site: 31 posts written to help teachers get more out of their computers.
- What is Dragon NaturallySpeaking?
- More and more teachers are creating classroom websites to engage their students.
- iPads are great tools for the classroom.
- How to use cloud-based services in the classroom
- How teachers can become more efficient by using classroom technology or software.
Here are some of the things happening behind the scenes on this site:
- I’m hoping to tweak the look, feel and brand of ClassroomTeacher.ca.
- Sometime over the next two weeks, I’m hoping to move this site to a new web host.
- I’d like to invest money into SEO (search engine optimization) to help build this site.
- I’m also hoping to reorganize some of the information on the site.
- I’m thinking about expanding into other projects.
A year in review: 31 posts to help K-12 teachers get more comfortable with the digital learning environment
What is Dragon NaturallySpeaking?
Dragon NaturallySpeaking is voice recognition software that types down whatever you say. Some students (with learning disabilities) use it as assistive technology to help them get their ideas onto paper. (If you are a student or teacher, you may qualify for an educational discount, but you should check out these 10 things to know about the Dragon NaturallySpeaking Education version before buying.)
- Here are my thoughts on using Dragon NaturallySpeaking to write this blog. Occasionally, I find some deals to save people money, including these coupons for Cyber Monday and Black Friday.
- Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 is a much faster way of getting information down on paper. It’s faster than typing and handwriting notes, but you need to proofread your work to catch those pesky word recognition errors.
- After using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 premium wireless for year and blogging 34,000 words on the site, it turns out that the voice-recognition software consistently gets around a 97% word accuracy rate. (I’m not sure if it’s good or bad that when I first created my user profile on Dragon NaturallySpeaking, I also got a 97% word accuracy rate.) Sure, on average, this means that you get 97 words correctly out of every 100 words transcribed, but those three word errors can be embarrassing or can completely change the meaning of your sentence (“I can” or “I can’t” can sound very similar to a computer.)
- There are ways that you can use Dragon NaturallySpeaking on your iPad (the best of which is to use DragonDictate to turn your iPad or iPhone into a wireless microphone.)
- Dragon NaturallySpeaking is much more accurate if you’re using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 on your computer as opposed to the free Dragon dictation app on your iPhone/iPad. (Dragon NaturallySpeaking is also faster on your computer than using the iPad app.)
More and more teachers are creating classroom websites to engage their students.
- Here’s some advice for setting up your classroom blog to help encourage students to leave comments and participate in online literature circle discussions.
- You might also want to think about whether students should publish using their real name or a pseudonym.
- Google sites is another way for teachers to create a class site, but personally I’m not a fan. At the time of writing, you can’t create student user accounts that can leave comments without also giving them the power to publish their own content and edit existing content (like things the teacher wrote.)
- If you use WordPress for your class blog, there are some tricks to help you get some eye-catching text boxes on your class website to let your parents and students know important information. (If you do use WordPress, teachers might be concerned with the following two problems with the way WordPress handles comments and posts when you have multiple users on a class website.)
iPads are great tools for the classroom.
- Once upon a time, I wanted a class set of laptops. There are lots of pros and cons to having a class set of laptops.
- Now, I’d rather have a class set of iPads. Here are 16 iPad apps to help students improve their reading literacy and five ways to use iOS 5 in the classroom.
- There are some great notetaking apps to help both students and teachers alike and there are some important differences between how well you can handwrite notes using the Note Taker HD app and the Bamboo Paper app.
- iPad apps like Evernote and Evernote Peek help turn the iPad into an effective study tool.
- Another great iPad app is Pocket informant HD which helps teachers organize their day plans (and To Do lists.)
- As teachers, we can use Apple TV to turn the iPad 2 into a much more versatile classroom overhead projector.
How to use cloud-based services in the classroom
- Google Docs is a great teaching tool. The fact that you can have multiple students working on the exact same document at the same time just blows my mind. Students are completely engaged when they are watching a classmate or the teacher type in their word processing document right before their eyes. Plus, it’s easy to use. The fact that you can easily access your work anywhere through the cloud is a great feature. Whether you’re at home or at school, you don’t have to worry about e-mailing the document to yourself or losing your USB key somewhere. If you’re running Google apps for education, it’s even better because the teacher administrator can set up all of the student accounts and troubleshoot password problems as they arise. However, teachers should be aware that there are ways that students can instant message and text with each other using Google Docs (even if your computer administrator has disabled Google chat.)
- Dropbox is a great way for teachers to collaborate and share resources. One of the best things about dropbox is that you can undo changes and recover a previous version of the file. (This one feature saved hours of marking just by restoring an accidentally deleted file.) But if you use dropbox, you need to start thinking about space and privacy issues.
- Prezi is a great alternative to PowerPoint. You have so much more room for creativity and flexibility and engagement with the Prezi compared to simply moving forwards and backwards through a set of slides in PowerPoint. (Unfortunately, you need to be 18 years old to create a Prezi account, so you’ll need parental consent before you have students sign up for their own Prezi accounts.)
- Here’s a post about how old your students need to be in order to legally sign up for some of these accounts. (In other words, check out the Terms of Service because you usually have to be 13 years old to create an account in most places.)
How teachers can become more efficient by using classroom technology or software.
- You can organize your life by keeping your to do list in the cloud. This is especially great if you follow the getting things done organization system. ToodleDo is a fantastic cloud-based to do list and it integrates so nicely with the Pocket Informant HD iPad app.
- You can use abbreviations software to create customized shortcuts on your computer to help speedup the marking process. (For example, if you’re always giving next step feedback on how a student could improve, then you simply have to say something like “insert writing comment five” and your computer can insert your entire paragraph about run-on sentences for you.)
- Clickers (handheld voting devices) are a great way to improve student engagement and understanding in your lessons. You can get real-time feedback from your students to quickly see if they understand your lesson. (Assessment for learning.) (Poll EveryPoll is a great way to use clickers without the clickers.)
Here are some of the things happening behind the scenes on this site:
I’m hoping to tweak the look, feel and brand of ClassroomTeacher.ca.
- It’s been the same theme since the site first came online in May 2008 and it’s time to give this educational blog a little makeover to make it more user-friendly.
- I’m in the process of trying to find a pretty WordPress theme that I can hang my hat on.
- I’m in the market to buy some stock photography to add to the posts. Lets face it. A picture is worth a thousand words and words alone ain’t cutting it.
Sometime over the next two weeks, I’m hoping to move this site to a new web host.
- I’m switching from BlueHost to a geo-hosting package with VPS.net.
- BlueHost has been great, and over the past year alone, this site has made over $6,000 from affiliate links and Google ads. Yup, it’s possible to make money from a website hosted on a shared (cheap) web host plan like BlueHost, but it’s time to take the next step. BlueHost will slow down your website if you’re using up too many resources (CPU throttling) so if you’re trying to have a whole class of students work on their class blog at the same time, you’re likely to hear a bunch of complaints from your students about how slow your site is because BlueHost is intentionally lagging your site. On this site about classroom technology, every time I publish a large post, it seems that our connection to the database gets dropped which raises a few eyebrows in terms of what kind of user experience visitors to the site have. Is this site blazing fast or does to crawl like a turtle? Since speed is something that Google considers in terms of page ranking, if we want to take this site to next level, we need to make sure that the site delivers quickly.
- Geo-hosting from VPS.net is considerably more expensive than the $7 per month that I’m paying with BlueHost. On the other hand, it syncs (load balances) your WordPress website across multiple servers around the world, so hopefully that will help speed things up. I’ve used VPS.net for a few other sites, and I’m pretty happy with how it handles larger loads.
I’d like to invest money into SEO (search engine optimization) to help build this site.
- Traffic means business. And the more traffic you get to your site, the more business you get.
- This quarter (2011 Q4), this site about classroom technology made over three grand in commission and advertising dollars.
- However, over the past few weeks, traffic has been slowing down (and obviously so are the commissions) which begs the question – what can be done to improve this site so it shows up higher on the search results? (Obviously, the higher up you are in the search results, the more people will find you, and the more traffic you’ll get. I know that this site converts reasonably well, so now it’s simply a matter of pushing the turbo button.)
- Over the next two weeks, I’m hoping to find some SEO Guru so I can learn from someone who can help this site to rank on the first page for some of our topics.
I’m also hoping to reorganize some of the information on the site.
- Blog.classroomteacher.ca has covered all sorts of topics to help the average K-12 teacher integrate classroom technology into their curriculum: cloud-based services ike Prezi or dropbox, iPad apps to help students or teachers and assistive technology software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking.
- We’ve also looked at blogging in the classroom as well as trying to help classroom teachers design better looking websites.
- Hopefully the SEO guru that from the previous step can give us some feedback about whether it’s better to have all these topics organized into categories within one site, or to have a series of sister sites under one umbrella.
- I’m hoping to get a forum to get classroom teachers to talk about how they use classroom technology in their programs, and there are few WPMU premium WordPress plug-ins that have really caught my eye that I want to play with.
- I’m also hoping to hire some freelance writers to write about their experience using classroom technology at their school.
- Oh, and I’m really excited that this site was accepted by the Apple affiliate program. (I’m sure it’s not a big deal to some people, but when I first applied a year ago, the application was denied.)
Stay tuned and hope you have a relaxin break from school. Oh, and happy new year!
image source: Children Studying On Computers In Classroom – BigStockPhoto
|This post was written using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5 Premium Wireless using a Plantronics Calisto Bluetooth Headset with Windows 7, i7 CPU, and 12 GB RAM. Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5 (Miscellaneous options) is set to Most Accurate. We are compensated for our reviews. Click here for details. Find out how accurate is Dragon NaturallySpeaking after using it for a year (and 34,000 words.) If you are a teacher / student, here are 10 things to know about the Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Student version.
[stextbox id=”info” caption=”Example of Word Errors made by Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5″ collapsing=”true” collapsed=”true”]
[stextbox id=”info” caption=”Example of Punctuation / Capitalization Errors made by Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5″ collapsing=”true” collapsed=”true”]
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