Saturday, May 2, 2009

I'm Feeling a Teacher Geek Out Comin' On!

There are four weeks left of school (28 days counting weekends), and usually this benchmark is characterized by complete and utter exhaustion.  A little of the "I just need to make it through this day" attitude.  Past April/Mays of my teaching life have been filled with days where I am just trying to keep my head above water.  I'm tired, the kids are tired, we are all a little bit irritable, and patience doesn't seem to be a virtue that makes it on my list.  By the end of the year, I am so thankful for the break to just physically and emotionally recoup. 

But, this year....this year is proving to be different.

Thanks to some of my rockstar co-workers, I have been energized in an unaccountable way.  I'm talking a full-fledge teacher geek out, usually only experienced in the first few months of the school year.  Technology people, best motivator ever.

Here's the top five technology wonders currently making appearances in the Richert classroom:

1.  Voicethreads: These are awesome!  I can't even describe all the varied uses for them, you just have to check it out yourself.  This is a voicethread that was completed by my 6th and 7th grade classes.  I've only shown a couple of the kid's responses.  Needless to say, I think this is the most fun they have had talking about commas.  Please take pity on how my voice sounds when it is recorded.  Skip the first two or three slides so you can see the awesomeness of my students.   

I've used voicethreads with my Senior Lit. class as well.  It seemed to be a much less intimidating way to discuss Shakespeare.  

2.  Wikis:  For the past two years, I've tried to maintain blogs for all my classes with mixed results.  The blogs were a little difficult to present all the information I wanted, especially in a way that was the most beneficial for the kids.  I was getting frustrated, the kids weren't using the sites, and it was pretty much a disaster.  Then, my friends Jean and Jody introduced me to the wonderful world of Wikis.  These suckers have completely changed my classroom these last few weeks.  So easy to set up, so easy to maintain, and I've gotten a huge response from parents and students.  The kids have been so excited about it that they have no problem doing the hidden assignments found in the site.  Awesome.  Check out everything you can do:

First you can create an endless amount of pages for your wiki:

Home 200E(8th Grade Sharks)200E
I have a blog page:

Current Events 200E(8th Grade Sharks)200E
I have an assignment calendar page:

Assignment Calendar 200E(8th Grade Sharks)200E
One of the coolest features of the wiki is being able to download any type of documents, word, powerpoints, pdf's, for the kids to access at home.  This has been a life-saver for my more organizational challenged students.  Also, it is helping to move our class to being paper-free.

Did You Lose Your Copy? 200E(8th Grade Sharks)200E
I also have pages with videos, checklists, and webquests.  All of this took me about two hours to put together because it can all be done with a click of a button.  So cool.

3.  My kids are loving this site.  We use it in class as an easy way to check out the word choice in our writing, but the kids are using it on their own to create word art.  First, you copy what every text you want to check and paste it in the wordle window:

Wordle - Create

And, Wah-Lah....Word Art:

Wordle - Create
The words that appear the largest are the words that have been used the most.  You can also play around with the wordle, creating different looks and colors:

Wordle - Create
There is a drop-down menu that lets you change the layout, color, and font.  The kids are coming with new wordle's each day.  They've used their own writing, articles, poems, song lyrics, anything they can think of.  Evaluating our word choice has never been so pretty.

4.  Book trailers:  Wow!  Who came up with the idea to present books in the same vein as movies?  Absolutely brilliant.  I have kids watching them and coming up with must-read lists all on their own.  You can't help but get hooked into the book after seeing one of these suckers.  Youtube is a treasure trove for them.

5.  And finally,  This site provides the software that is allowing me to capture all these images and add arrows, text, and embed those new images into anything I want.  Unfortunately, only works with macs right now.  

All of these technological gems have made the last two months of school just as energy filled as the first two months.  I think the kids and I just might survive these next four weeks, and have a lot of fun doing it.