Friday, December 31, 2010

Dangers of Social Networking

In my previous post on Facebook I discussed many of the benefits and some of the educational uses. Here you can see an example of how my school uses Facebook for the Spanish National Honor Society. I blocked out the names and pictures of students to protect their privacy.
The students post who is tutoring each week, what service opportunities are available, and any other updates for the honor society. It's also a great place for some of the kids (who actually want to) to practice their Spanish! The group is only editable by members who have been invited, and there are two other teachers plus myself who are administrators of the group. This is one of the more positive uses of the site!

Unfortunately, their are many dangers with the social networking site as well. School-age students do not seem as worried about posting pictures, personal information, and even contact information. Families who do not understand the technology are usually not monitoring it, so children are free to roam cyberspace meeting people who may or may not have their best interest in mind! To check out some of the dangers, check out this article from CBS.

Facebook has so many security settings now, but you have to continually update them to be stricter. In the past when there was a privacy update, your settings would revert to the default and everyone could see your information! That has now been changed, thankfully!
Monitoring students is probably one of the biggest issues with using Facebook, especially as students get older. I truly believe that the technology should be utilized if we teach our students how to properly use it and the etiquette that goes along with its use. See the video below that is a good reminder for students (cheesy, but good)!
Check out a site called Failbook (caution: some material is inappropriate, but gives a good glimpse into what is posted regularly on the site) that pokes fun at some of the images and posts that have been put on Facebook. While many people may find it funny, I find it sad that users do not think about what they are posting publicly until it is too late. Students need to remember that what they post could have lasting consequences. 

I think that some of the most important things that we can teach our students prior to using Facebook in the classroom are:
  • setting privacy settings appropriately
  • checking out a profile before you "accept" a friend online
  • thinking about pictures/video/texts posts prior to submitting (i.e. would you show your parent/grandparent/future employer whatever you are posting!)
  • how to post in an educational manner (and respectful!)
This article provides some other security measures to take for students to protect themselves (and for teachers too). Hopefully, we will have access to Facebook at our schools in the future so that we can better utilize this web 2.0 tool and teach our students how to properly use it. 

Happy New Year Blogger World!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Facebook, Friends, and Formalities

Facebook is currently the most popular social network around the globe. It began as a college network that brought together friends, acquaintances, and strangers from colleges around the United States. Now, you no longer have to be a part of a college network! Anyone can join Facebook and connect finding childhood, grade school, college, and work friends. You can even "friend" your family if you so dare! You can share your status, pictures, events, groups, common interests, and life in general. Friends can like what you've shared or are doing and comment on everything!

On a side note, if you have not see the movie The Social Network, you should check it out; it is a great description of how Facebook came about and the changes it made along the way.

If you have no idea what Facebook is you should check out the video below for some of its benefits and how to use it! 


We all know that Facebook is pretty much blocked in our county, but it doesn't hurt to think of some of the potential uses (see article from 3rd class) in case we can ever use it in the classroom (you could probably use it at home but there would be some boundaries because it would be "outside of the classroom").

At my school we do use Facebook to create groups for clubs and sports. The kids can get on and check updates, announcements, and pictures from various events. It is nice to be able to send a message to an entire group of students in Spanish club or Spanish National Honor Society because sometimes the kids do not check their email, but they do check Facebook! I know the yearbook teacher also uses it as an easy way to collect pictures throughout the year. Many of our staff members are on Facebook as well; I know some people would not want to "friend" their co-workers, but I know that I have nothing to hide and that I do not post anything inappropriate online. I also love my co-workers! We have created a great community where we all share each others' lives and are there for support! 

Some other uses of Facebook in schools could include:
  • updates for parents on a regular basis (with or without pictures...definitely some privacy issues there though!)
  • a community for the PTSA/PTA to promote events, fundraisers, and announcements
  • story-telling through pictures where students could write in captions or paragraphs under the comments section
  • teaching online etiquette and how to talk to and respond to each other
  • corresponding with other classes around the globe since time differences can make programs like Skype impractical
  • collaborating on school projects by sharing pictures, videos, ideas, and other information
If Facebook is not for you, check out some of the other social networks that include Twitter, MySpace, Bebo, and to name just a few of the hundreds that are out there.

Check back later for some of the potential dangers with Facebook and other social networking sites.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Flickr in the Classroom

After my last post on photo sharing, I had to do some more research! Since Flickr since is relatively new to me, I did not know all of the ins and outs. I discovered that you can also upload videos as well! Here's a video, not educational in the least bit, but I wanted to try it out. The uploading process was simple, but even a 30 second video took a few minutes. YouTube is definitely faster with their downloads!

I also discovered that while Flickr claims to be unlimited, that free account users are in fact limited to 300 MB of images and 2 videos each month. If you are going to sign up for Flickr you also want to make sure that you are going to use the account because after 90 days of inactivity, your account will be deleted! Pro account users obviously have more unlimited options because they are paying for the service.

While Flickr is definitely a photo sharing site, it is also billed as a social network. Their are communities on Flickr where users can connect with each other to share photos, make comments, and meet new people. There is also the ability to add Flickr pages to your RSS feed! 

Flickr could have some classroom and telecollborative uses, but I think that posts by other teachers and students would have to be monitored carefully. Students can not only take and upload pictures, but also edit pictures through the Picnik photo editing application within Flickr. Some classroom and telecollaborative ideas for Flickr include:
  • students taking pictures to add into an online storybook, such as Storybird
  • students taking and sharing pictures around the world based on themes such as family, community, holidays, health & nutrition, etc...
  • students/teachers taking pictures to share with students so that they can write about them using a Blog or a Wiki
  • students taking an object/pet home to take pictures and describe their experience...i.e. Flat Stanley project
  • uploading video from a Flip camera or other device to edit and begin putting together a movie
While monitoring what is uploaded could take a great deal of time, Flickr provides both students and teachers with an easy way to upload, edit, organize, and share their photos and videos. I am not sure Flickr is the best idea that's out in cyberspace, it's a great start and it's fairly user-friendly!

On a side note, combining web 2.0 applications, you can even find Flickr on Twitter! Don't forget that if Flickr is not for you that you can try Snapfish, photobucket, Picassa, SmugMug or Shutterfly.

Monday, December 27, 2010


I have been using the photo-sharing website Flickr for quite some time now; I just never thought that I should join! I have been borrowing photos for years (under Creative Commons more recently now that I know all of the rules!), but I never thought to post my own pictures. I have always used Facebook for that, and I use Kodak Gallery or Snapfish to print my pictures (you can also upload and share your photos through those sites). I have enjoyed using Flickr in the past because you can search for photos and browse photos without having an account.

Upon creating an account with Flickr, you have many possibilities at your fingertips. As with, you can sign in instantly if you have a Yahoo account (I hate mine), but I saw too late that you can also sign in if you have a Google account. I would have much preferred that, but I can always go back! I am not a huge fan of setting up your photos because I think it takes too much time. The uploading process was simple if you have a fast Internet connection. You open the folder(s) from which you want to upload and you can use CTRL click to choose all of the photos that you want to upload all at once! Flickr walks you through the entire process, so I can't say that it's not user-friendly. There's just something that I do not like but I cannot pinpoint it! Flickr does have a neat blog where users can submit photos for different categories and have their work displayed. There are some beautiful photos on the blog! There's one plus!

After creating your account and uploading your pictures, you can tag and organize photos. Tagging photos and writing titles/descriptions can take a long time no matter what application you are using, but it seemed to take even longer on Flickr because you can only work on 10-15 pictures at a time. I suppose that is a beneficial feature because you save your work after each batch of 10-15 pictures. That way, if your computer is having issues, you do not lose all of your work. You can create sets of pictures and galleries, but I am not yet sure what the differences are...I'm working on exploring some more! You can get help in their help menu, but it did not answer all of my questions. I also found this great site on how to use Flickr. The site explains many of the site's features in terms that non-tech users can understand.

Check out my first set of photos on Flickr from our most recent trip to Disney World. I have not yet written descriptions or tagged anyone, but I am slowly learning little tricks with the Flickr Web 2.0 application. To be honest, I am not sure that I will use Flickr in the future. After playing with the site a bit more, I discovered that if you want prints of your photos you can print them with Snapfish! Why wouldn't I continue using Snapfish to do almost everything that Flickr can do AND print my pictures like I normally do?

Check back soon for uses in the classroom! I hope you are all enjoying winter break!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Power of the Social Network

This is a somewhat personal post, but we wanted to share and it is relevant!  Have a wonderful winter break everyone!

We were recently able to experience the power of the social network Facebook (thanks to Patrick)! Over the past few years Facebook has revolutionized the way that people interact with each other. Now you can not only post your profile, but also chat, post pictures, share interests, find old friends, and plan events!

A recent private Facebook event invited almost two thousand people to join in an event for a Christmas celebration. Three hundred people replied and showed up at a local high school in Howard County in order to practice and participate. What was the event you ask? Well, a flash mob! If you haven't heard of a flash mob before, check out one of the most popular ones from a train station in Belgium! Basically, people meet in a public location while pretending to shop, chat, and hang out. Then, a group forms seemingly out of nowhere to sing and/or dance. When it's over, the people leave as if nothing ever happened.

Facebook brought together three hundred of us from Howard County to perform Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree at Columbia Mall last night. Within an hour videos were already on YouTube (another web 2.0 tool), and within twelve hours the news had a hold the story! Just think of the possibilities with your students with a tool like Facebook (appropriately used in the classroom, of course)!

Check out the video below or this link to see the flash mob and the product of ONE Facebook page! See if you can spot Patrick, Steve, or me! Enjoy your time off from school.


Check back later for ideas with social networks in a more educational post! 

Social Bookmarking for the Classroom

I have recently discussed two ways to use social bookmarking with posts on and Digg. is a web 2.0 tool where the user can save any number of sites, tag them with labels, and organize them so you can share them with others or simply categorize them. Digg is a web 2.0 tool that allows the user to "digg" various news sites that he/she likes and rate them. If you sign up for an account with Digg, you do not even have to create a "new" account; you can use your existing Facebook or Twitter account if you have one!

While both sites have similar functions, one is for any site that you put into your links list, and the other is more for news stories, but it appears that the stories must be "diggable" (most news sites offers this option now, and not only for Digg but also for many other social bookmarking applications). Digg does have an option where you can go to their website after you've found a link that you want to "digg" and put the URL into their site. That seems like a great deal more work, however (there is an add-on toolbar for Firefox to make this easier)! The Digg FAQ was very helpful in answering many of the questions that I had. I did not find the help page very useful, but it did answer some of the basic questions about this tool.

This tool could prove extremely useful in the world of academia! Teachers and students now have numerous ways to not only bookmark their favorite sites (not the primary function of these applications though) but also share, tag, and rate sites for their own personal purposes or for others. Some uses for teachers, students, and in telecollaboration are:
  • gathering sources to share with students or classmates that are all organized, categorized and/or rated
  • guiding classes in a computer lab by directing them only to specific sites instead of taking time to search for various sites(would be great for younger classes so they only have one link to type!)
  • guiding students in the rating process of sites; the teacher could provide a rating rubric similar to what we have done in class, but also use Digg to rate them for others
  • creating lists of links to share (perfect for telecollaboration when classes cannot physically be together)
  • doing research in class/at home and bookmarking the sites for later use
While I have not tried any of these with my students, I do actually prefer to use Weebly sites with them instead. A Weebly is a drag and drop, create your own website! It allows me to prepare the students for work in the computer lab by posting rubrics, links, search engines in Spanish, online dictionaries, and even graphic organizers. I like the all-in-one combination of Weebly! Here's an example that I used this year during the Spanish 4 arts unit. Coupled with Weebly I could use something like in order to collect the sites that I like, and then, post the link to the categorized sites for the students.

All in all, I would consider social bookmarking with my students, especially with my telecollaboration project, but I do not really have a need to use it personally. I see its benefits, but I am not all that impressed by it to feel the need to use it regularly. If you are interested check out Digg or or even BlinkList, Reddit, or StumbleUpon.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Digg is a very interesting site that I am not sure I completely understand yet! Digg is like social bookmarking, but for news! After doing some more research, some critics consider Digg a social bookmarking Web 2.0 tool while other do not. If you are interested in social bookmarking in general, here is a great list of some of the more popular applications with some pros and cons.

Digg peaked my interest because I have seen it on the bottom of news articles on popular news sites such as CNN, BBC, and Fox News. I always wondered to myself, what is Digg, and what can I Digg? Do I need a shovel?

Apparently Digg began purely as an experiment but has grown as a way to share news, worthy of peoples' viewing or not! There are now numerous categories for "Digg"ing news including technology, science, business, videos and entertainment, and more. You can "Digg" a story by submitting a news link or voting on a news link. I find that the name in and of itself provides some interesting social commentary of its own; it's as if you are "digging up" a news story, or a term coined from the 70's, "can you dig it?" meaning "do you understand?/do you get it?". Both are quite rateable to news!

Digg also has the ability to connect with Facebook as of the spring of 2009. Users of both can connect their accounts so that news can be shared through both Digg and Facebook simultaneously. Apparently there is a great deal of controversy with the site because of it's former CEO and some of the issues that users have had with the program, especially the most recent update this fall. To read more on Digg and some other social bookmarking sites, this article was very helpful in explaining some of the differences (although a few years old, it is still interesting!). 

Digg would be a great way for teachers and students to tag past and recent news in order to use the information for reports, presentations, and current events projects. It would be a great way for teachers to see students' comments regarding specific news articles as well. Once someone has signed up for Digg, you can save, bury, and comment on news stories.

Check back soon for more ways to use Digg and in the classroom!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Presentation Power!

After looking into Google Docs presentations, I have decided that it's not particularly my favorite! It's above Google Docs drawing for sure, but way under the word processor and spread sheets! For me, the only real added bonus to Google Docs presentations over PowerPoint, was the ability to embed the file into a website.

This is not to say that there are not uses for Google Docs presentations! Educational uses are probably innumerable, and I truly believe that if students in grades 6-12 knew more about the capabilities of Google Docs in general that it would catch on even more. Educators can easily collaborate together on a presentation for classroom use, professional development, staff meetings, and even community events. Students in specific classes can utilize Google Docs presentations as well as telecollaborative classrooms around the world. Some presentation options include:
  • creating a presentation based on data collected (could even incorporate Google spreadsheets and drawing)
  • creating a presentation to share comparing and contrasting data, ideas, or multimedia
  • uploading existing presentations to share, edit, and collaborate with others
  • creating an online story/book with events and pictures
  • introducing each other to the class, could even be a template created for each class member to use (YAY ET620!)
  • designing a culminating class project for an oral presentation
  • introducing a project/telecollaborative project to the class
  • presenting a guest speaker/tele-field trip
Although I am still not a huge fan of Google Docs presentations, I would definitely be willing to show my classes more about it. In group work, students frequently complain that they had to wait for the other person to finish their part of the project and then, wait for an email from him/her. Google Docs would eliminate some of this; also, if the teacher was added into the process, he/she could see who had done which portion of the project, making it easier to grade. In general, I think that students would not be as hesitant to try any of the Google Docs file types if they had some more instruction...a possible internship? We'll see! Enjoy your week off from class!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Drawing, Take 2

I have to take back part (not all!) of what I wrote about Google Docs drawing before. Although it is still not my favorite, after doing a bit of research I have discovered that it does have some more uses. One of the more effective uses is the templates feature. There are thousands to choose from, some created by Google, and others that people have created and made public. Why create something from scratch that already exists? There are lots of templates for charts, graphic organizers, and other business options. I also discovered the numerous file saving options for your drawing. Although I took some time to play with Google drawing, I did not understand all of the features that it offered until I did some extra research.

That being said, I probably will not use Google drawing with other teachers or my students. That's not to say that there are not potential uses for education or telecollaboration, however. Both with your students in the general classroom and for telecollaboration students could
  • compare and contrast information using the numerous online templates and graphic organizers
  • organize information with text, shapes, word art and more
  • create a visual aid or simple talking points for a presentation
  • design slides for Google Docs presentations or even PowerPoint
  • create their own template or even a newsletter
  • allow others to comment on drawings or other visuals to receive feedback
  • design logos, plans, or sketch-ups to promote a product or idea
  • fill in a pre-designed template or graphic organizer (for younger students)
 I still love the element of online collaboration, as with other types of Google files, but I am not sure that that outweighs the limited options of the program. In my search for more information, I did find a few sites where users had commented on what they wish Google Docs drawing offered, and a Google employee responded! They would love feedback and suggestions on all of their Google file types on their product ideas page. I am still not a fan, but I am more satisfied with the file type than when I started!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Google Docs: Drawing

The final document type that Google Docs offers is drawing. I will be very honest, I do not like this! Before I explain the pitfalls with this file, here's how to set it up...

Open your Google Docs, create new, and choose drawing. Your blank template opens with a grid that is like a blank canvass. It is similar to the Paint program for the Windows OS, but it has less features and options. You can change the background and colors as well as add shapes, text, arrows, and word art. To be completely honest, the Paint program does the same thing with better features! I created a graphic organizer to describe the elements of Google drawing.

This took me about 8-10 minutes because I am not familiar with this part of Google. I feel that programs like Inspiration and Paint are much more user-friendly. The application offers myriads of shape types, but the options for editing are very limited. You can also insert images from your computer, which is nice for reports. Another nice feature is inserting one of these drawings into a Google word processing document or presentation. In general, I find the entire application limiting in comparison with other programs.

I think that Google Docs drawing might be best used in elementary and middle schools, but I need to ponder some possible uses for high school students still. The ability to collaborate online is always a positive, but this seems like a personal application, and not necessarily a collaborative application. Applications like Google SketchUp might be more useful and fun! For some extra help getting started, see the Google self-help!

Once I think of some more positive uses for Google drawing, I'll be back!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Google Docs: Presentations

Google Docs has yet another user-friendly tool with which to collaborate online. The presentation tool is similar to PowerPoint, but much more basic. While I do enjoy PowerPoint more, I like the online collaboration, sharing, and embedding options that the Google Docs presentations offer.

In order to begin, simply open your Google Docs, choose new, and start designing and organizing your presentation. Whether using PowerPoint or Google Docs, it is always a good idea to have a plan in mind first. Creating slides, editing content, and adding clipart, wordart, videos and tables are all extremely similar to PowerPoint.

Since I already have many vocabulary and grammar PowerPoints for numerous levels of Spanish, I do not see a need to convert any of these files to the Google presentation. I tried to upload a current PowerPoint into a Google presentation, and it worked! This example is converted to a presentation and had minimal issues. The only real problem that I encountered was with clipart/word art from PowerPoint. Some of the converted clipart and word art was moved, upside down, or even missing pieces! I could only conceive converting some of my current files to Google presentation if I wanted to share with other teachers in order to edit, but I could just as easily send them in an email as an attachment.

You can also edit the background, themes, and color options. However, there are not as many options as PowerPoint. There is always help available if you need it! Google has its own help even for presentations. Check it out! A great site that I found was how to embed your presentation into a website. See below for the presentation that I created above embedded here:

As always, do not forget to name your file and save it! You can also edit your publishing settings beyond private so that you can share with others (with editing privileges or not)! Also, stay tuned for all kinds of uses in the classroom.

Docs 2

In my most recent post on the word processor portion of Google Docs, I introduced how to set up a Google Docs document, and some of the features. Today, I'd like to brainstorm some other ways that students and teachers could use the word processor document, even telecollaboratively.

Since Google Docs has taken some (maybe most) of the need for face to face interaction, teachers can collaborate with teachers, students with students, and students with teachers. We have recently been using Google Docs with the National Honor Society at my school. The NHS secretaries and I have been collaborating by making a variety of different absence notes for students. One of these notes it to permit students late to sports practices and other after school activities when there are mandatory NHS meetings after school. Although this seems like such a basic idea, we did not have time to meet face to face, it was her responsibility to type of the majority of the note, and I needed to edit it to remove teenager slang and superfluous words!

Other examples of how students could use the Google Docs word processor are...
  • to write a composition/research paper/essay collaboratively (group work, not cheating!)
  • to create a book report, both sharing the role of citing the text for support
  • to design a flier/pamphlet for a variety of content areas or even for clubs/sports
  • to collect ideas and brainstorm for a future project
Some examples of how teachers could use the Google Docs word processor are...
  • to create online rubrics to share with their students
  • to collaborate/design worksheets or extra practice with colleagues for the students
  • to prepare handouts or guided notes with students
  • to design a newsletter to share with parents and students about happenings in the classroom and the school
All of these examples could also be used telecollaboratively. Teachers and students in classrooms and homes with Internet access can now easily work on the same documents, at the same time, with all of the changes online. The great part about the students working collaboratively is that the teacher could be added as a viewer/editor for each of the documents so that it would be easy to view, grade, and make comments.

One of my favorite features of this type of Google Doc is that you can see the entire revision history. For example, if Student A makes a revision to a paper that is incorrect, Student B can go back to the revision history and see the original writing. Edits can easily be made, and it is also easy to see who has written each part of the document (it's color coded...YAY for organization)!

A few of the downsides to this type of sharing are that the Internet must be accessed in order to view and edit the document, a valid email address is necessary (preferably Gmail), and security is always an issue when using the Internet. Many projects would have to be planned in advance, knowing that time is always a factor, and that patience is necessary!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Google Documents: Docs

Google Documents has a word processor file type just like Microsoft Word. I find this particular type one of the simplest to use and access. the toolbars are very similar, and it allows the user to complete many of the same tasks as other word processors. Again, the advantages to Google docs over other word processors are that it is online, accessible anywhere that Internet is available, and allows multiple users to collaborate all at the same time. I am sure that the business world loves Google Docs in general, but it has to be a fabulous resource when working on proposals and projects across the nation and the world. Some businessmen and women probably never even have to meet in person now thanks to Google Docs (I would miss the face to face interaction, however).

Google Docs has been particularly useful in our current graduate program. We have had numerous group project in which we need to collaborate, but our schedules do not match up. Instead of meeting face to face, we have been able to collaboratively organize/add research, edit a document, track each others changes, and even submit our final product. One example of our use of Google Docs was for our Distance Education course where we had to design a distance education program including support staff, ideas for learning modules, and even a budget. Fellow cohort members, Aime and Keith, designed a program for Home and Hospital students who need to continue their education while at home for a medical reasons. While we did meet in person one time, we were able to divide up our project and put together the entire thing online! It was such a time saver because our schedules did not match up in the least bit!

I have not yet used Google Docs with my students, but I have suggested it for various group projects where students need to collaborate. Some students have acknowledged that they have used Google Docs, others know what it is but have not yet tried it, but the majority do not know anything about it. I hope to provide a tutorial on this in the future, and guide students through how they can use it to their advantage. There is even a Google site for educators in order to get both students and teachers started with Google Docs!

In order to get started, you simply have to log in to your Gmail account, choose Create New, and then, document. Finally, you can type! It's that simple! From there, the user can copy, paste, track changes, insert objects/graphics/tables, and make any other formatting adjustments. The user can share the document initially in order to collaborate with others, or share the final product for others to view/edit. Side note: What I like about Google Docs are the privacy settings and the share settings; while I may want multiple people to have access to the document with editing privileges, I may only want another person or group of people to view the document. 

As always Google Docs offers help for users on its website. On the site for Google Docs for educators, Google provides a page of resources for teachers, advice on types of activities, and a space for teachers to share activities and resources that they have created. While I have not found too many issues with Google Docs (only minor formatting issues probably due to html), some have suggested issues converting the documents to PDF and the number of people collaborating on the document all at one time.

Stay tuned for more uses of Google Docs for teachers, students, and telecollaboration!

Google Forms 2

In my most recent post on Google Forms, I talked about how to set up a Google form and the myriads of question options and combinations that you can have. I feel like Google forms are very user-friendly and provide instant feedback to questions for the creator.

At this point, I feel like I may be able to use Google forms in my telecollaborative project as a means of collecting data (if I choose the Plan-a-Project) option. I have not yet chosen an activity structure, however, so all of this could change!

As far as uses in the classroom for Google forms, I mentioned how it can easily be used by co-workers or administration to gather staff data. I believe that this could also be extremely easy for teachers to use with students. I am also considering using this as a way to collect parent/student data at the beginning of the school year next year. Instead of parents having to fill out the same form a million times, parents could fill out one online form and all teachers could have access to it. Teachers could simply link the Google form from their websites and their syllabi.

Other classroom uses of Google forms could include:
  • a class poll 
  • creating a quiz or a test (obviously open-note since it would be difficult to prevent cheating)
  • literary analysis with a variety of questions
  • quarterly/semester survey on personal growth in the classroom
  • a club/sport invitation
All of these could also be used with telecollaborative projects too! Even the invitation could be used to "invite" the students, hook them into the project, and collect data about them at the onset of the project. Google forms would also be an easy way for groups of students across the country or across the globe to gather and analyze data since feedback is instant. Students could then take the data provided in the spreadsheet to collaboratively make charts or edit the organization online. See previous posts here or here for more information on Google spreadsheets. 

Check out this site or this site to view sample Google forms and get a feel for the different types of questions and combinations.

I secretly love this type of Google document the best and cannot wait to create more of them! Google nerds unite!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Google Docs: Spreadsheets 2

In my previous post on Google Docs spreadsheets, I discussed mostly how it is similar to Excel and about getting help with formulas. Today, I want to talk a bit about more uses in the classroom.

The great part about both Excel and Google spreadsheets is that both students and teachers do not have to have previous knowledge of cell formulas in order to use them in a productive manner. The advantage to Google spreadsheets over Excel in this respect, however, is that Google allows the user to create, modify, and collaborate on one document all at the same time online.

Spreadsheets can be used in the classroom simply to organize, compare, and analyze data. This data does not even have to be numbers, but in order to use the graphing function of the program, there should be numbers. Some examples for use in the everyday classroom could be:
  • collecting data on various Spanish-speaking vacation spots and organizing costs of flights, hotels, meals, excursions, etc... Various charts could also be created to compare the data
  • collecting and organizing the countries and capitals of the world (in addition, could add population size, imports and exports, median income, etc...)
  • collecting data on use of technology in various classrooms/schools and analyzing its use through charts
  • collecting data on a variety of colleges including information on tuition, student body population, meals, athletics, and extracurricular activities...this would be a great way for juniors and seniors to narrow down their college choices!
Telecollaborative projects bring even more options as students and teachers around the globe can collect and compare data. Teachers could use the Google spreadsheet to track and synthesize information about the students completing the project or students could use the spreadsheet to collect and compare data for an actual project. For example students could...
  • collect data on weather patterns on the East coast versus the West coast with daily highs and lows, precipitation, tides, etc... Students would add the data daily in the online document, and then, be able to compare the data visually in the chart or through the graphs in the program
  • collect and organize data regarding family life in two different countries. Each student could put in data such as family size, dwelling type, parents' professions, types of food eaten, extracurricular activities, and even pets. Students could compare their daily life and family life to that of a student across the globe!
  • collect and organize data of workout and health information in physical education classes in various countries. Students could compare types of workouts to the number of minutes/hours completed, weight loss, diet, etc...
Although I have not yet used Google spreadsheets in my classroom, I think that it would make some aspects of grading and/or projects easier. For example, every year in the spring my Spanish 2 classes participate in hot seat. One student is in the hot seat each day for 10 minutes while the rest of the class asks them questions. Students are awarded a grade for the number of questions they answer correctly in hot seat, and a separate grade at the end of all of the hot seats for their participation as the audience. In order to make it fair, the grade for both is taken from the class average of questions answered and asked. Extra credit is awarded for every 5-10 extra questions answered or asked (based on honors or regular classes). I set up an Excel sheet (converted to a Google Doc/names omitted) to do the math for me, and I simply had to enter the numbers each day. The problem is that the students did not know their grades until the end and it could be difficult to keep track of; I'm not sure if I could use Google spreadsheet for this unless I used the students ID numbers to protect their identity and scores. It's definitely something to think about! I will also be thinking about how I could incorporate Google spreadsheet if I do a Plan-a-Project for my telecollaborative project. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Google Docs: Forms

Welcome back to Google Docs! Another option in Google Docs is Google forms. Forms seem to have endless uses because they offer different types of questions. Google forms allows the creator to make surveys, questionnaires, applications, polls, invitations, collection of personal information, and even tests and quizzes!

After entering Google Docs, open a new document for forms. Once open, you come to an edit page where you can being inserting questions for your form. Don't forget to add a title first! You can also change your theme so that it fits with the topic of the form, but that is not necessary.

Then, you are ready to create questions. The different question types are text, paragraph text, multiple choice, checkboxes, choose from a list, scale or grid. The advantage to these is that you can create a form with multiple types of questions to ensure that you get the feedback or response that you desire.

The different question types offer various setups for each question. For example, multiple choice allows a creator to provide multiple answers to a question, including selecting the correct answer.
You will continue to add questions until you feel the form is exactly what you desire. The form can be edited continually, and edited by anyone with which the form has been shared. Google forms also has features for your questions where you can make certain questions required so that a user cannot move on until they have answered the question. Other questions/all questions can be left optional. Another option is creating a form from a Google spreadsheet.

Once finished, you can send your form to anyone! The advantage is that all of your results can be seen in spreadsheet form once users begin to complete the questions on the form. You can also view a summary report of traffic and answers on the form. Although you cannot provide a cut off day and time for the form so that it stops taking answers, you can put a time/day on the form for when it will be closed; the only thing the user must remember is that he/she must make it so that the form is no longer public.

Another potential downside to Google forms is that you must be online in order to create a Google form and to fill it out. If you are without access to the Internet, you must wait! 

I created a Google form for our World Language Department so that our team leader would not have to have a huge meeting to discuss schedules for the following school year. The meetings always end in a disaster and tears over who is going to teach which course. Instead, everyone can fill out their choices online, and only our team leader will see the results. She can create the schedules from there without anyone knowing who chose which course and why. Once completed, everyone's results will be automatically compiled into an organized spreadsheet for our team leader! This was the perfect solution to a miserable problem!

Check back soon for other educational and telecollaborative uses for Google forms! For now, don't be afraid to get help with Google forms from sites like this or this (creating quizzes). There is even a Google Docs blog where you can see posts just on forms!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Goolge Docs: Spreadsheets

I am a fan of Microsoft Excel and have used it for years for multitudes of activities, collecting/keeping track of dues and club money, attendance, participation, and anything in which I can make my life easier!

Now, Google has spreadsheets too! While I do not always think of this option first and usually use Excel instead, it is becoming more popular at my school. I think that it is a wonderful way to add, edit, and compare data. It has many of the features of Excel, including formulas, charts, and modification of cell information (i.e. colors, highlighting, etc...). Like other Google applications, there is help available on Google for questions and troubleshooting. Google spreadsheets is also offering the compatibility of languages within the program so that the spreadsheet can work with other applications (basically API or Application Programming Interface). If you are not familiar with formulas in Microsoft Excel, then Google spreadsheets could be difficult as well. If you simply want it to organize and share data, then both are wonderful tools. I find that knowing the formulas and shortcuts has allowed me to focus less on data and more on teaching because it does the job for me many times!

I may use Google spreadsheets in the future so that students can see their participation points on a regular basis...I'm still thinking about this one though.

In the world of education and even telecollaboration, Google spreadsheets could be used to collect and compare student data. For example, students could perform scientific experiments in locations all over the world, and everyone conducting the experiments could have access to the same spreadsheet that can be both added to and edited. From there, graphs of the data could also be created. It would be a fabulous tool to compare data around the world.

I sponsor the National Honor Society at my school, and the students have created a public blog in order to keep track of service hours coming in, events, questions, and honor society documents. I created a Google spreadsheet as a part of the blog that the students now use publicly to document all of the incoming service hours. Students now know at any time how many hours they have and how many hours they still need before the end of the school year. They must have at least 10 out of school hours and 10 in school hours before the end of each school year. We have separate pages for juniors and seniors. No one can claim that they did not keep track anymore because the officers update the blog and the spreadsheet and it calculates everything for them. This has saved the officers and myself so much time! All students and parents have the links and it is linked from our school website as well.

Finally, check out this YouTube video (or see below) on setting up Google spreadsheets. The creator (expertvillage) has an entire series of YouTube videos on Google spreadsheets. Feel free to check it out if you are interested or need some extra help!

Web 2.0 News

Good evening bloggers! Today in the mail I received the latest edition of Action Line, a publication by the Maryland State Education Association. I thought it was interesting that they had an entire article on Web 2.0 (article begins on page 9) and some of the "new" methods that we can use in the classroom. There were one or two that I had not yet heard about, but most were ones that we have been talking about in our cohort and/or have been using for quite some time now. The article described Web 2.0 in everyday language, and I really felt that teachers who are not familiar with many aspects of Web 2.0 could easily relate to the article. Feel free to share with those who may not be very familiar with Web 2.0!

Monday, November 29, 2010 is a website used for social bookmarking. What is social bookmarking you might ask? Well, I had to look up some answers in order to tell you more because I was a bit wrong in my personal definition. Check out this wonderful link that tells 7 Things You Should Know about Social Bookmarking. I found it extremely helpful and informative. 

I had previously thought that Social Bookmarking was a way of bookmarking your favorite websites online without the possibility of losing your list of bookmarks! I was wrong! Social bookmarking actually allows you to tag these websites on a public site so that others can easily find what they are looking for or have a more clear picture in regards to what a site is actually promoting/describing. Some sites can be listed as public while others are listed as private. The PDF link above also describes some of the pitfalls with social bookmarking, one of which is the manner in which sites are tagged. For example, if I only tag this blog as "blog", but not technology, reviews, or even Web 2.0, I am not really helping anyone out or giving true perspective on purpose of this blog. 

Social bookmarking is almost like a huge Dewey Decimal System for websites! Since anyone can do this with a free account, the same site could be tagged hundreds of times with a variety of tags. For example, I did a quick search of my gradebook program, SnapGrades, and it returned with 109 results for the same exact site! is simply one of many social bookmarking sites in existence currently. I tried to sign up today, but I am awaiting the reactivation of my old Yahoo account. Apparently, you cannot register without one. That part was a huge downfall for me, because I do not really want to reactivate my Yahoo account nor do I want to sign up for a new one. You can still perform searches without registering, which is helpful. I like the fact that you put in more than one tag and usually come up with more than 100 results! You can search by bookmarks, by user, and by tags (keywords). If you cannot find what you are looking for with one of the search methods, you have two others to try.

One of the huge upsides to sites like is the ability to share lists of resources with each other, especially with students. This would play a major role in telecollaboration because it would allow students and teachers to share and comment on numerous resources at their disposal. Teachers could spend less time continuously seeking resources through Google or Bing by using social bookmarking instead. It may not come up with all of the desired results, however. 

Once my account was reactivated, I did also enjoy the fact that you could import current bookmarks into You first have to export the bookmark files though! Here is an example of bookmarks that I could share amongst other Spanish teachers in my department, the county, or anywhere! I did not find the site to be completely user-friendly at first, but once I got the hang of it, it was not awful. There are a lot of steps to go through in order to make sites public versus private, delete sites you don't want at all, and edit tags/other information. I would like to explore some other sites such as Digg and Blinklist

Check out this site for more information regarding how to begin using and creating social bookmarking.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Google Docs

I have known about the vast options that Google offers, but I had not played with any of these options until about 6-8 months ago. Suffice it to say...I am in love! I finally switched email addresses completely to a Gmail account, and now, I can link my mail, Google Docs, RSS feed, calendar, and more! Google Docs is a free online collaborative file sharing/storage that allows 2 or more people to come together and work simultaneously. It has come in handy for many of the projects that we have been working on for this cohort, but it has also been useful at school as well. I'll blog more on that part later!

I was able to utilize Google Docs in the past without a Gmail account, but it seems much easier to use if you have a Gmail account. Google Docs offers five different file types that can be created and shared between a variety of users: document (word processor), spreadsheet, presentation (similar to PowerPoint), drawing, and form. I have recently used the documents, spreadsheets, and forms, but I have experimented with both drawing and presentation.

Once a new type of file has been created, the sharing process can begin. In the right-hand corner of the screen, the file can be shared with a variety of settings. A file can be sent to a number of people in order to simply view without the ability to edit, with the ability to edit, or just as an attachment. If you have a Gmail account, you can actually share with groups of people that you have created within your email. This would greatly benefit teachers who could share files with an entire class of students.

All of the file types seem fairly user-friendly, but do not function exactly like the Microsoft programs with which many people are familiar. I have to admit that I do not particularly like the presentation file or the drawing file simply because they do not offer all of the bells and whistles that other programs offer. On the go, however, I am sure that these types of files would be useful in the business world or even for students for whom having less options would be a solution for a better product.

There are many other sites in existence that can provide information or support for Google Docs, and one of them in the Support Site within Google. It can answer many questions and aid the troubleshooting process. Another helpful site is the official Google Docs Blog. The blog provides tips on using Google Docs and shortcuts for how to make using the file types a bit easier and faster.

Over the next few weeks, I will explore each file type in depth a bit more and provide some examples of some of the files that I've created both for school and for this cohort. For now, enjoy this video (or see below) about how some teachers and students have worked collaboratively with Google Docs.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Welcome to Tech Talk! I have been a Blogger since 2007, sharing stories about my life, house remodel, and family. This blog, however, will be used to discuss recent technology and its uses and/or pitfalls in the world of education.

Please feel free to look around, comment, and ask questions. Happy Blogging!