Friday, August 15, 2008

Learn Something New... from iTunes U

Music. Movies. TV shows. Audio books. These are items most folks expect when they download iTunes onto their computer. But now, iTunes is becoming a valid source for something else… educational resources.

Apple’s iTunes U is nothing new. This portion of the renowned media store has offered ample resources in the past, but they were mainly geared toward collegiate level students. At a recent conference held in July of this year, iTunes made an announcement publicizing their intent to offer technology-based content that would greatly benefit those in the K-12 educational sector.

What kind of content can teachers expect to find? The options are wide open and cover various topics with a major focus on core curriculum subject areas. Load up your iTunes library with educational content for your students, as well as for yourself. Best practices, digital literacy, leadership, professional development, etc. – you name it and there is probably a podcast there to fit your criteria!

What is the best part about aligning a podcast with your lesson plan? The students can continue their learning whenever and wherever they are. Mp3 players can easily be converted into an educational “tool” that you and your students use to facilitate learning. Do you have students in your class that don’t own an mp3 player? Not a problem. Podcasts can be viewed on most computers if there is a media player installed.

The next time you are working on your lesson plans, take some time to browse through the iTunes store. Did I mention that all of the educational content is free?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sharing the Workload

In years past, sharing your assignment with another student was absolutely unheard of! It left the door open for cheating, giggling and an unproductive environment! How did you prove which student did the work? Who learned the most? Did they learn anything at all, or use the time to catch up on school happenings? Many questions were left unanswered with simply “sharing” work. That was then. This is now.

With the integration of technology into the classroom, many traditionally valued ideals in the classrooms of yesteryears are just that – a thing of the past. Technology not only provides our students with multimedia, new methodologies and interactivity – it gives them the newfound ability to gain insight from their surroundings, and others.

We already know that collaboration provides students with perspectives beyond their own. But, what method do you choose to set the students up for success in building those collaborations? Simple answer – collaborative workspaces.

There are many Web 2.0 applications to choose from, but here, we will look at four different versions.

1) Zoho Writer (
2) Writeboard (
3) ThinkFree (
4) Google Docs (

All four of these internet-based applications allow multiple users to edit the same document, at the same time. One of the best teacher features? There are revision updates automatically posted so you can tell which student made which changes, and at what time!

Pros to using collaborative writing tools – builds partnerships within a project, allows for ownership, allows for a unified workflow, and allows for the completion of work regardless of the location and time. Student accountability to each project partner is also a leading benefit. At the completion of the project, each of these applications has the ability to export the documents out into at least one or more popular file formats like .doc, .rtf, .pdf or .txt.

Cons to using collaborative writing tools – before assigning a group project using an online collaboration workspace, be sure all students involved have access to the internet. You also need to keep a watchful eye on the different ads displayed.

Are these applications just for students? Definitely not. These four can easily be used between grade-level teachers, school administrators, and others to collaborate on all types of projects and topics.

Each of the four applications mentioned is completely free. So, start writing. Encourage sharing.