For those of you who don't know what ISACS is, it's the Independent School Association of the Central States. Last week, they brought their annual conference to Columbus for the first time, and all of the teachers from my school attended for the day on Friday, Nov. 6. Independent school teachers and administrators came in from all over the midwest, and we were treated to a lot of wonderful speakers and useful information.
I attended some interesting sessions. I came away with new information and ideas, which I have pounced upon already, and that's really the measure of a good conference, isn't it: Did you come away with ideas you can put to use in your classroom?
I always think I'm pretty up to speed on things until I attend these types of sessions. The information below may be old news to many of you, but it was all new to me!
1. Google Docs: From the Google homepage, you can navigate to Google Docs, but you (and your students) need Google accounts to use it. Google Docs is a collaborative writing platform, a kind of multi-user word processor. You can create a document that other people can add to, alter, edit, and revise from their computers. Google Docs would be great to use for class notetaking because more than one student can contribute notes to a single document, and that can then be shared with the whole class via email or an existing website or blog. I believe that you need to invite people to access/share the document collaboratively. To me, this seems like an amazing tool. Kids can work on a project collaboratively from their own homes without having to send a document back and forth constantly. No flash drives or home email accounts are needed! The document is saved on Google, so you can gain access to it anytime, anywhere. Google Docs could be used to gather notes for absent students, and they wouldn't have to wait until they returned to school to catch up. I can also see it being used in a more global way: Your clasroom can share documents with a classroom anywhere in the world, as long as they have Google accounts! Imagine the possibility of your students pairing up with students on another continent and creating documents together!
2. jing: Another cool tool. With jing, you can create screencasts of yourself using applications on your own desktop. Jing is a "capture" tool: With a mic, which most computers have built-in, you "capture"what you're doing on your desktop in a video that you can share through the jing projects site. This is great for all kinds of learners because it is a multimedia tool. Students can even make their own tutorials and other videos to show what they've learned. Kids can access the jing you create to help with their homework so they don't flounder at home. You can capture your Smartboard lessons using jing and make them available to your students at any time, a great thing for students who aren't so good at taking notes and actively listening to a lesson simultaneously. Jing is free to download- they'll even provide you with a URL for your screencasts- but you can also get jingPro (Yes, it costs money!), which can allow you to do more sophisticated jing-y things. Go to: www.jingproject.com to get started.
3. Create a custom search engine: Also from Google homepage--> more--> even more-->Custom Search. Here you can create your own search engine. Students can find web resources at home (videos, tutorials, etc.) and put them into the class-created search engine.
4. 1:1 laptop schools: Howard Levin came to the conference from The Urban School in San Francisco to talk about his school's 1:1 laptop program. The school makes good use of First Class to create shared folders, course conference folders, class bulletin boards, and teacher and student forums. The laptops are used for: organization (Inspiration software, Stickies on their desktops!), communication (audio files for language studies, collaborative homework experiences), information (archives of class notes, whole group analysis of passages/documents), and production (alternative ways of producing end products of learning). Howard's website: www.howardlevin.com.
5. Ning: Ning lets you set up a social network for people with the same interests as you. You can also join existing nings. I jumped over to the Independent School Educators ning and joined right away! It's kind of like creating your own little Facebook world for people with whom you actually want to communicate! To get started with ning, go to: www.ning.com.
6. WolframAlpha: A good search engine for anything that has data. Put in a math equation, and up comes a graph of that equation. Put in a year or a month or a place, and WolframAlpha returns tons of information just for you! Go to: www.wolframalpha.com.
A lot of good stuff for one day at a conference, don't you think?!