Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Have students send you secure files with DROPitTOme

Are you using Dropbox? We wrote a post earlier in the year outlining all of the great features of this service. If those features were not convincing enough for you, here is one more...

 DROPitTOme is a Dropbox-affiliated service that allows other people to send files directly to your Dropbox folder. This is an easy and quick alternative to using flash drives or having students upload files to the school server. I used to have students email Word and PowerPoint files to me. Not only was this inconvenient, but the files were often very large and cluttered my inbox. With DROPitTOme, students can now send files directly to my Dropbox. It creates a new folder called "Dropittome" where all files are stored.

You do need to register and sign in with your Dropbox account. Once you do this, you will be given a direct link to a personalized "drop" site like mine below. You can view this site here. You can notice in the image below that students need to enter a password in order to send me a document. When you set this up for yourself, you have the option of making it password-protected or not. I would recommend you do this so you don't get unsolicited and potentially harmful files sent to your account!

 In my Enrichment class this year, we have been having students plan their dream vacations. At the end of the rotation, students must present their itinerary using either a Google Presentation or a PowerPoint presentation. Students who use Google go on to the teacher computer and sign in to their Google account to present their information to the class. Students using PowerPoint send their presentations to me using Dropittome the day before. I log into my account at, and students get immediate access to their slideshows. Even when students wait to the last minute to send them to me, it only takes a few minutes to sync and appear in my folder.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Looking to learn more about Google Docs in the classroom?

Looking to broaden your understanding of Google Docs and ways to use it in the classroom?  You're in luck... over the next two months, I will be offering a series of short seminars on using this powerful tool in your classroom.  Each of these six classes will focus on some aspect of using Google Docs - from the relatively basic aspects to more advanced applications.  You can sign up for as many - or as few - as you'd like.

When and where?   They will run on Thursdays, starting at dismissal (2:35) and running until approximately 3:30.  I will hold them in my room, 309.  Just bring your laptop and have a Google Docs account (if you don't, or haven't accessed your school one, we can take care of that at session 1).  Once you take a session, I'll be available to answer any questions you may have, or to help you implement what you've learned in your classroom.  We can schedule some shared time to work on your lesson, or I can come down to help you set something up.

Here are the sessions:

January 26:  Uploading, converting, and sorting files.  This session will focus on some of the basics - locating buttons on the Google Docs menu, what each one means, and how to use them. We'll look the various options for uploading files: when to convert them to Google Docs format and when to leave them alone; creating new documents and renaming existing ones, and the importance of using categories / folders to keep files organized. We'll also look at how to sort your files and how to find what you're looking for. Also, if any of you have two different Google Docs accounts, I can show you how to switch between them at the click of a button, without needing to log out / log in.

February 2: Sharing documents & folders - for editing or viewing. We'll look at the different ways to share documents, and the uses of each - specifically, when and why you'll want to give students permission to edit certain documents (or vice versa), and when you may want them to only be able to see them. Similarly, we'll look at sharing entire folders, and ways a team can benefit from this - from newsletters to discussing student progress, or sharing cross-curricular assignments.

February 9: Google Docs with the Copier-Scanner: For this session, we'll take an exciting field trip to the copy room - bring a flash drive and a document you'd like scanned... We'll go over how to scan a document onto a flash drive, and then upload it to google Docs. We'll then work on embedding your scanned document into a Google Doc, to make an exemplar for kids to view.

February 16: Student work - submitting through Google Docs: We'll go over the basics of student submissions through GD - setting up class folders, standard formats for naming and sharing documents with you, and when this tool is at its most powerful: during the writing process, as a quick check-in during drafts. We'll learn how to comment in drafts, and ways to use the revision history to check on student progress / contributions.

March 1: Google Docs for peer editing: This session will look at some of the benefits of online, live peer editing - moving peer editing from the classroom to the home, with teacher support. We'll go over how to set it up, including sample instructions and handouts, for multi-student peer editing and feedback.

March 8: The Virtual White Board in Google Docs:  This session will show you how to maximize the use of a few laptops to lead a class discussion - with each group of students using a single laptop to post their thoughts onto a shared document that you project onto a screen, using the LED projector.  With this, you'll be able to save the notes created by each class, and then make them accessible online, for students to either add onto later, or simply view.

You can sign up for any of the seminars by clicking here:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Social Bookmarking in the Classroom

Two weeks ago, I explained how to use a service such as Xmarks to sync all of your online bookmarks on all of the computers that you use. If you are stuck without one of your personal computers, you cans till log in to the Xmarks website and access all of your bookmarks from any computer in the world.

In today's post, I will explain how you can take bookmarking to a whole new level. Let me introduce you to "social bookmarking!"

 Watch this video will give you a quick overview of social bookmarking.

As the YouTube video above suggests, social bookmarking sites are very helpful for teachers because we tend to get a lot of our information on the Internet. There are so many great resources out there, but it's virtually impossible to keep track of them all using your traditional web browser's bookmark and "favorites" features. Bookmarking sites such as Diigo and Delicious allow you to give each bookmark multiple tags. "Tags" are relevant words that will help you keep your bookmarks organized.

The last site I bookmarked was a news article on Yahoo! News about a 12-year old girl who blogged about her fight with brain cancer. She joined her parents to start the NEGU Foundation, a non-profit foundation that raises money and awareness for pediatric cancer. NEGU stands for "Never Ever Give Up!

This brave girl, Jessica Joy Rees, recently lost her battle with cancer. However, she has been an inspiration and a hero to all those who knew her. I bookmarked this site because we are having the "Changing the Conversation" programs at Oak and encourage students to look for ways of giving back. I knew I wanted to share this story with everyone at school in case you wanted to include it in your meetings:

Where Do I Begin?

The first step is to sign up for an account with a social bookmarking site. There are many out there, but the top two are Delicious and Diigo.

Delicious is run by Yahoo so if you already have a Yahoo account, then you do not need to create another account to use Delicious.

It was one of the first social bookmarking sites and continues to have a large user base. It is very simple to bookmark sites, but it does not offer as many advanced features as other sites.

Diigo is a more advanced social bookmarking site.

It lets you bookmark sites just like Delicious, but it has a whole suite of other options that can really come in handy for teachers and their students such as: digital highlights, interactive sticky notes, add notes, and more.

1. Visit these two sites and decide which one fits you best.

2. Set up the bookmarking button on your browser that lets you easily add bookmarks. These will be "add ons" or "extensions" just like Xmarks and can be located in your browser's "Tools" menu.

3. Begin bookmarking sites. Each time you bookmark a new website, give it tags so that you can easily locate it in the future.

How Can I Use Social Bookmarking In My Classroom?

I use Diigo every day to bookmark resources that are relevant to my personal and professional life. As a science teacher, I have bookmarked over 500 different websites. Just about all of my bookmarks are "public" and can be viewed at the link below. Each time you bookmark a site, you can choose whether to make it public or private.

1. Share resources with students and/or other teachers.
While there are benefits to sharing certain resources with your students, the biggest advantage to making bookmarks "social" is collaborating with your peers. All bookmarking sites allow you to make groups and join networks. Imagine how helpful it could be if we created a Sherwood/Oak network where we could share bookmarks with each other!

2. Make student research more engaging, collaborative, efficient,!
As students troll the Internet for online sources in class, they spend a lot of time writing down bibliographical information and scribbling down information as quickly as they can. They try to jot down the URL so they can find that same resource again or they try to copy the link to their email.

While using Diigo on team this year for medieval research and science fair projects, our students have been able to:
  • Bookmark relevant websites -- this saves all important bibliographical info. (No need to write down)
  • Highlight important information on a page so when they return, they don't need to re-read the whole page again.
  • Add sticky notes with personal observations and questions. Group partners leave messages for each other.
  • Students working in a group become "friends". This allows them to view each other's bookmarks, their sticky notes and everything they highlighted!
3. Research directly on Diigo or Delicious.
You can search for information on these bookmarking sites much like you would in Google. The difference is that the results of your search will be websites that were bookmarked by others.

In the screenshot below, you can see some of the results from when I searched "social bookmarking" on Diigo. Notice the numbers on the left. This tells you how many Diigo users bookmarked each site! Chances are...if a website was bookmarked by hundreds of other people, it probably has some useful information.

Other Social Bookmarking Resources:

This is a group you can join in Diigo. Teachers all over the world add websites that they bookmarked that are relevant to education. I get an email each morning that lists all of the sites that were bookmarked the previous day by other teachers.  

You can have your account upgraded to a teacher account. This allows you many features such as creating accounts for your students, setting privacy accounts for your students so they can't communicate with strangers, and setting up a class "group". This would allow all students to share bookmarks with each other in the class.

Blog post from that outlines the useful features of social bookmarking

In Closing...

The best advice I can give you is to start playing around. There is a small learning curve with social bookmarking because it's a different approach (tagging vs using folders) to saving websites, but I assure you that it gets easier, and it helps you to become more organized. 

As always, please contact us if you have questions or if you need some help implementing any of these ideas. Also, if any of you are using a "cool tool" you would like to share, talk with us about writing a guest blog post!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Shorten those links with Tinyurl

One problem I've had when trying to share a link with students is getting them to copy it correctly from the board / projector... and I don't always have time to post a link onto my team's webpage or discussion board before a class starts.

But there's a great way to fix this.  Just go to...
What does it do?  It takes a long obnoxious address like this one, I used in class as part of a presentation:

and turns it into this:

Much better! 

All you need to do is go to, and paste the URL into the address box:

You can then just click the "make tinyURL" button and the site will assign it a short string of letters and numbers, or you can enter what you want its name to be in the "Custom alias" box.

This makes it easy to share links that are simple, and easy to remember.

You can even install a quick button into your toolbar, so that, with one click, you can shorten the link for any page you are on.

This can be really useful when giving kids links for a project - shorten each one to the project name and a number (science1, science2, etc.), so they're grouped and easy to remember.

Per usual, you can find this tip and all the other ones on our blog, at

Let us know if you have any questions or suggestions, and stay tuned for information about an upcoming mini-course in Google Docs!

Derek & Jeremy