Friday, April 10, 2009

Classroom Blogging

Last week I started a classroom blog for my AP Statistics classes. I can tell that I am really going to enjoy using a blog with my classes. I wanted to start using more technology with my students, but didn't really know where to start. It was overwhelming to consider all of the technological choices. Plus, I am on a deadline. My students need to be ready to take the AP Exam the first week of May. I didn't have time to waste.

A blog seemed ideal because I could use all of the curricular material that I have currently. I started by retyping a quiz I usually use to review students before the test into a Google form that could be embedded into my blog. I then used the WOW cart of laptops for the students to complete the form in pairs. For the next day I posted two problems from assigned homework for the students to solve by posting a comment. In class I used the blog when going over the homework to review the comments that were posted. My most recent post is a set of Quizlet flashcards for them to use to review terms relating to our current topic of study.

My Weblog has become an interactive part of my instruction. I can post announcements, homework problems, review materials, a countdown gadget to the AP Exam, photos of my class, and my favorite books that relate to statistics. Of course I could do some of this at my school website, but a blog is incredibly easier. Plus, students wouldn't be able to comment on my school website. The best part is that when the school year is over, I am going to have a record of my course organized with labels for easy reference.

Will Richardson provided a list of classroom uses of weblogs in his book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. A few of his suggestions are listed below:

  • Provide examples of classwork, vocabulary activities, or grammar games.

  • Provide online readings for your students to read and react to.

  • Invite student comments or postings on issues in order to give them a writing voice.

  • Publish examples of good student writing done in class.

  • Showcase student art, poetry, and creative stories.

  • Create an online book club.

  • Build a class newsletter, using student written articles and photos they take.

  • Post tasks to carry out project based learning tasks with students.

  • Post prompts for writing.

View the video Blogs in Plain English embedded below for more information on blogging.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Kindle for iPhone

You may have heard of Amazon's Kindle, which is a wireless reading device that retails for $359. It is gaining in popularity because it is so lightweight and can store 1500 books. The Kindle didn't appeal to me at first because of the initial expense and because the books that I read most often come from the library. The only books I tend to buy are those that I use as resources in my classroom.

I recently discovered that the iPhone has a FREE Kindle application. In addition, there are numerous books available from Amazon for the Kindle that are free. Amazon also offers the option to read a sample of any book before you buy it. I downloaded the app and researched the Kindle book offerings on Amazon. All of the classics that are on high school reading lists such as Jane Eyre and The Scarlett Letter are available free of charge. Most of the other books are $9.99 or less. Plus, there are several promotional books by famous authors that Amazon makes available for free. I have downloaded several of these free books as well as sample chapters of books I am interested in reading.

I have to admit reading on the iphone is very pleasant. I love the flexibility of being able to read while standing in line or waiting for my daughter. The lighting in the background is bright enough to read in the dark, yet very comfortable on the eyes. It is so easy to hold the phone while reading and flip pages with a finger. The only thing that is keeping me from reading exclusively on the iPhone is the price of the books. I find it difficult to justify purchasing a book when I can check it out free from the library. However, I do plan to buy some books for my iPhone this summer when I travel. No longer will I be limited by the number of books my luggage will hold.