Sunday, October 28, 2012

Create a Symbaloo Homepage for your Often Used Websites

As of late, I have received a lot of positive feedback from students, parents and colleagues about my use of Symbaloo.  Oddly, it is only in the last month, I started using Symbaloo as I am a former iGoogle user.  I am very glad that I made the switch though, as Symbaloo accomplishes my goal of organizing my often used online content in one easy to use homepage that I can access with all my devices - smartphone, tablet and laptop(s).

Symbaloo is a visual, online bookmarking service that allows users to create 'webmixes' or tile-like collections of website links.  Symbaloo allows users to create multiple webmixes with each being available for private use or for sharing with others.  Another Symbaloo feature users can access is the ready-made webmixes on a wide range of topics from the Symbaloo Gallery.  Also, there is an educational version of Symbaloo but it is only free for individual users.  At this point, educators are best to stay with the regular version as there is no added features that warrant a purchase.  Lastly, another Symbaloo service users can utilize are the iPhone/iPad apps or the companion Android app.      

How to Get Started:

View the quick Symbaloo video tutorial below to learn how to get started within minutes.

Possible Educational Uses:

Below is just a sampling of the possible uses of Symbaloo:

1.  As I already mentioned, create a Symbaloo homepage for your often used websites - personal and professional.  E.g. I have a webmix for the technology based websites I like to visit on a regular basis - Free Technology for Teachers, Classroom 2.0, etc.

2.  Create a Symbaloo webmix of related educational content that you would like to share with parents, students or colleagues.  E.g. a webmix of the online resources you use to teach your students fractions in math class.

3.  Have your students create a Symbaloo webmix to share with their classmates, the online resources they found for a specific subject area research project.

I really think you will find Symbaloo a great tool to use for not only organizing online content but also sharing that wealth of information with others.  To try it out, click here!

This post originally appeared on The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Maximize Your Productivity with IFTTT

Staying connected with the global teaching community can be a very challenging, and at times, very frustrating undertaking for today's busy educators.  The trick is to spend less time with administrative tasks such as tweeting out your new blog posts and more time connecting with members of your Professional Learning Network (PLN).  Amazingly, there is a web tool educators can use to automate repetitive tasks - it is called IFTTT (If This, Then That).  

How It Works:

Before we get started, there are some terms you must be familiar with first:

1.  Channels - are on-line services such as Twitter, Dropbox, Gmail, Foursquare, etc. that when linked, allow IFTTT to perform automated tasks.  Currently, there are over 50 on-line services that can be linked to IFTTT.

2.  Triggers - constitutes the 'this' part of a recipe.  They are messages that IFTTT looks for to start an action.  A trigger can be a Twitter message, a voicemail, an email, etc.

3.  Actions - constitutes the 'that' part of a recipe.  They are the tasks to be performed when a trigger is received.  For example, if a trigger is the receipt of an email, then the action could be to send the email to your Dropbox account. 

4.  Ingredients - are specific pieces of data from a trigger.  E.g. the ingredient of a Twitter trigger could be a tweet from a specific person (@MsLHall) or a hashtag (#edtech).

5.  Recipes - are a combination of a trigger and an action generated from your active channels.

A sample IFTTT (if this, then that) recipe could be:

IF  (your profile changes)

THEN   (update profile)

To best explain how to get started with IFTTT and to learn how to create recipes, view the two short video tutorials below:

As you can see, IFTTT is a great tool to automate repetitive on-line tasks.  By doing so, educators will free up precious time for tasks that require more skill or engagement.  I highly recommend giving it a try.  Click here to get started!

This post originally appeared on The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

5 Fun & Interactive Grammar Websites for Students

Teaching grammar and vocabulary can be challenging at times for Language Arts teachers as the content is not as exciting as learning about other topics like the combustible chemical reaction of napthalene.  Below are five websites that will provide a more fun and interactive methodology to teaching grammar and improving vocabulary.

Irregular Verb Wheel - This fun and engaging website created by Macmillan Dictionary allows students to practice identifying various verb conjugations.  The goal of the game is to earn as many points as possible by identifying the correct past, present and future tenses of a selected verb from the wheel within the allotted time.  The learning focus for this game is commonly used irregular verbs that are often incorrectly applied in our daily oral and written expression.   

Free Rice - is a free, online game that allows users to help with world hunger while improving one's grammar and vocabulary skills.  For each correct answer from the multiple choice format, 10 grains of rice are donated to the United Nations World Food Program.  Also, students are further challenged to expand their vocabulary because with each correct response, the next question is chosen from the next upper level of terms.  Recently, Free Rice has expanded its gaming repertoire to include other subject areas such as art, chemistry, foreign languages, math and geography.

Grammar Bytes! - is another free website that enables students to practice a wide range of grammar skills including sentence structure, usage and punctuation.  The website includes a glossary of terms, interactive activities, printable handouts, presentations including YouTube videos, and a quick summary of tips and rules.  The best aspect of the Grammar Bytes website is that students must demonstrate their working knowledge by correcting sentence errors, not just memorizing the rules of grammar.

Grammar Ninja - is a fun and engaging game that students can use to practice the identification of the various parts of speech.  There are three levels of difficulty: Beginner Ninja, Skilled Ninja and Master Ninja.  Instant feedback is a key feature of this website because if a student answers incorrectly, the words explode.  

Interactives: Spelling Bee - is a great website for students to practice their spelling.  Students are read either a story or a sentence and then are to spell the missing words.  Words can be repeated or a definition can be supplied if a student is having trouble.  At the end of the activity, results are calculated to determine a student's mastery of the vocabulary.  All grade levels are available as well.   

This post originally appeared on The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers.