A Googley Way to Collect Info

This past summer at the Google Teacher Academy, I learned of an efficient way to collect student info or even create quick surveys. It's all via Google Docs, specifically the Spreadsheet function. My own knowledge of spreadsheets is woefully inadequate, since I am math-challenged. But this is just populating lists and cells, which I actually do understand! Here's how to create a web-based form from a spreadsheet:

So here's how I use a Google Docs form in my classroom. At the beginning of the year, I need the following information from my students:
  • Name (i.e., what they prefer to be called, NOT what the computer spits out)
  • Email address (i.e., an email address they actually prefer to use to contact a teacher)
  • Blog address (because each one of my students has his/her own Blogger weblog)
The beauty of this form is that because it is online, any link in an individual cell becomes "live", meaning, I can click on the web address next to my student's name and it will take me to the student's blog.

And here's what my form looks like (scroll to see the input fields):

Managing All of Those Bookmarks

Organizing Favorites in Internet Explorer 6>Image via WikipediaAs a classroom teacher and a person who's logged on to many different computers in the course of one day, access to my browser's bookmarks had become a challenging mess. For various reasons, I might not have my laptop with me and instead be forced to use the classroom desktop computer. Or, at home, I might be working on an entirely different computer, perhaps a Mac. What if I needed access to a video or online newspaper article that I found at home and wanted to share with my students or colleagues?

How can a teacher keep all of his/her bookmarks organized and in a centralized place? One of my colleagues just emails links to himself. But he receives so many emails on a daily basis that it becomes difficult to locate the original email in his inbox! Others lose all of their precious bookmarks every year when the IT staff re-clones computers. For me, the solution I've found is something called "social bookmarking".

Social bookmarking, at its most basic, is just a website that stores all of your bookmarks online. It can also organize those bookmarks by "tags" which are named by you. Notice my tags on the left side of this page? So, for example, I teach a sociology course. I found a great New York Times web graphic on social class, which I bookmarked using two "tags" of my choice: "sociology" and "class". In the future, whenever and wherever I am, I can access all of my bookmarks, click on the "class" tag and my bookmarks are instantly reorganized by that category. I actually did this once in my American Studies class while discussing The Great Gatsby: I wanted to give the students a visual of current American social stratification for a comparison to the the 1920s.

The social bookmarking website I use is called Delicious, though there are many others. If you look to the right side of this page, you can see the latest websites I have saved (under "Recently Bookmarked"). That's the social aspect of social bookmarking: you have the ability to share your great finds with others (like course committee colleagues). Or, if you like, you can keep ALL or some of them completely private. It's your choice.

If it still doesn't quite make sense, please check out this video (above, right) from the great folks at CommonCraft that explains this concept further.

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In two of my classes, I am using a tool called VoiceThread in two different ways. VoiceThread allows anyone to post presentations or slides online for others to view and/or add comments. Remember VH1's "Pop-Up Video"? The added comments are "pop-up" annotations created by any or all of these methods:

  • typing
  • recording your voice with your computer
  • recording your voice with your phone
  • uploading pre-recorded audio
  • recording video via webcam

This tool allows you to control exactly who has permission to "comment" on your presentation. You could easily narrate your own presentation for students who missed class. Alternatively, you could have 30 students comment on 30 slides. Or, 30 students could comment on a common slide or image. Here's 2 ways I am currently using VoiceThread:

  1. In my AP US History course, each student has been invited to annotate every past presentation in a collective effort to review the entire semester. I call this a "collaborative lecture", since the students are actually enriching the original presentation with information from their own reading. Press the big PLAY button to see a demonstration using actual student comments.
  2. In my Modern World History course, in preparation for a unit on European Imperialism, each student was asked to view a single image and add their unique comments into 3 distinct categories of responses, according to Ron Ritchhart's Intellectual Character.

    "SEE": what do you observe (do not interpret)
    "THINK": make an interpretation, but only with evidence
    "WONDER": ask a question
     How are you using or planning to use VoiceThread? For many more ideas, please check out out Collette Cassinelli's VoiceThread 4 Education web page.

Fact Check THIS.

As the election heats up, so do the negative attack ads. Plus, the increasing number of forwarded emails we receive from family and friends ramps up emotions and starts rifts. How many of us have received an email that claims Barack Obama is a Muslim or that Sarah Palin has a list of banned books?

A new free service from the St. Petersburg Times critically examines many of these wild claims, on a website that is both fun and informative for students and adults. Politifact.com uses a "Truth-O-Meter" to rate the accuracy of the most recent attack ads, and a "Flip-O-Meter" to assess how consistent a candidate has been over time. They even have a version for the iPhone so you can flout your knowledge at parties!

Here's a small sampling from the actual website:

Search Campaign Speeches via Video

Because it's an election year, the web is alive with innovative ways of keeping people up to date on the latest political news, including what the candidates say in their speeches. But if we rely solely on what the traditional media outlets (CNN, Fox, MSNBC) report, we as teachers know how much selection and bias really come in to play.

What if we could sift through the innumerable speeches of both McCain and Obama, and then search for our own topics, bypassing what the media "gives" us? Thanks to online video sites and some pretty sophisticated speech-to-text technology from Google, we now can!

It's easier to just try this tool rather than have someone explain it further. For example, type the word, 'withdrawal' (no quotes) in the search box and see which speeches and subjects emerge. You can even type specific phrases in the search box, as long as you set them off with quotes, eg., "No Child Left Behind".


Although this blog is authored by New Trier High School (NTHS) staff, the audience is global and the views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of NTHS as an institution.

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