Charlotte's Web ThingLink

Friday, November 21, 2014

Word Clouds/EduWin from Kaitlin Klein

I love word clouds. They can be a beautiful representation of text, highlighting the words and concepts that are most important.

There are lots of ways to use word clouds in a classroom. Here are a few I thought of:
  • Students can create word clouds of different passages from related books, and then compare and contrast the texts.
  • Teachers can create a word cloud of an upcoming topic. Then use the word cloud to identify key vocabulary and concepts. Teachers can review the unfamiliar words and   students can anticipate the key concepts.
  • Students can create a word cloud before summarizing text, to help them identify the most important points.
  • Word clouds can help students analyze important historical texts or news articles to see what author felt was most important.
  • Teachers can collect words or impressions on any topic in a Google Form, and then copy and paste the text into a word cloud. I would do this after every field trip to see what most impressed students, to find out what their “take aways” were.
  • Word clouds can also provide a powerful way for students to analyze their own writing. Pop the text into a word cloud, and students will get a visual representation of which words are used and overused in their writing. With this information, they can revise writing to use richer vocabulary.

Wordle and Tagxedo are the two word clouds teachers are most familiar with. Both have their advantages. Wordle is easy to use. With Tagxedo, you can have your words make a shape, and then, when you mouse over a word, it pops out of the word cloud. But both of them require you to download and install applications on your computer. Wordle requires Java, and Tagxedo requires Microsoft Silverlight. Both work on Safari and Firefox, but neither work on Chrome. That makes either of those more teacher tools than student tools.

Google Docs now has an Add-on available that students can easily use to analyze their own writing. It will need to be added to Google Docs, but once it is, it is easy for students to use. And since it is a Google Docs’ Add-on, it will work on Chromebooks. True, it doesn’t give the user any options and only picks up the primary words, but students can use it to analyze, reflect on, and revise their writing. Here’s how to enable it.

In the toolbar of any Docs document, click on Add-ons. Go to "Get add-ons..."

Then search for "cloud."

When you get the results, choose “Tag Cloud Generator,” and click on the blue +Free box.

Now that it is enabled, you can create a word cloud in any Google Drive document that has at least 100 words. A word cloud is automatically generated when you choose Add-ons > Tag Cloud Generator > Create a tag cloud. Revise the text, and create another cloud. It is just that easy.

The three word clouds used in this post were all made with the same text. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but just think of how powerful a visual (and fun) tool word clouds can become in your classroom.

I’m guessing there are dozens of ways I haven’t begun to think of. Let me know how you use word clouds in your classroom. I’d love to pass along some of your ideas.

Hour of Code - December 8-14, 2014

The Hour of Code is fast approaching. Over 43,000 events in over 180 countries are already planned. With all the excitement, they are well on their was to reaching 1 million students this year.

Taking part in the Hour of Code doesn't take that much set up, and there are lots of resources online to help you get started.  Last year, I looked through the first two lessons and set my kids loose. Before I knew it, some were charging through the ten lessons and had become the local experts.

There were Angry Birds activities or students could make a holiday card. With choices, students could find what they liked to delve into it. While I had a parent in the computer lab along with me, it wasn't long before the kids had surpassed us. When there was a question, we just called on our student experts to help.

We'd love to know how many of you are participating. Let us know by sending me an e-mail at

EduWin/EDpuzzle with Kaitlin Klein

Ever assign a video for your students to watch and then wonder if they actually got anything out of it? EDpuzzle was developed to encourage active watching and learning.

Kaitlin Klein has been using EDpuzzle with her students. "I am using EdPuzzle to create video lessons. The students seem very engaged and I like the ability to embed questions and voice comments etc. into the videos."

EDPuzzle is easy to use. You can find video from a number of sources, including YouTube, Khan Academy, Vimeo,  LearnZillion, or you can upload your own video.

To try it out, I found a YouTube video on animal adaptations. I was able to trim it to only include the portion I wanted, and I added three questions. In addition, I could have added voice directions and comments. 

It is easy to assign to your students. They will need to sign up, but EDpuzzle provides you with a code so they can join your class. You can then monitor their progress and see their scores.

Here is the EDpuzzle assignment I made in just a few minutes.

Thanks, Kaitlin, for letting us know about this easy to use and free resource. 

If you or one of your colleagues are doing something in class that uses edtech tools, please let me know. I'd love to share it with other teachers.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Search your Gmail and Drive/EduWin from Julia Pugliese

Do you spend too much time trying to find that e-mail from a  parent from last year, or about a particular topic that was sent last year when you did that unit? Lucky for you, Gmail is a Google product. And if there is one thing Google does well, it's search. Here is a quick video to find out how to find the e-mail you are looking for in a hurry.

You access Advanced Search to the right of the search field. Just click on the drop-down arrow,

to open up the menu.

If you know the approximate date of the e-mail you are looking, you can narrow your search. If you leave the date blank, your entire mailbox will be searched. It will even search mail that you migrated to Gmail.

You can also use Search to find Google Drive files. New Drive allows you to put in a key search term, and then narrow your search by file type, the application your file will open with (opens files you created using apps from Google Drive), and by owner. Here, I am searching for a Document file with the keyword "animal."

There are lots of operators you can use to search for a document, even if what you are looking for isn't in the title. For example, I went to a conference and took notes in a presentation given by "kristen berg." By putting the exact words in quotes, the search will look through all my files and return results that include that exact phrase. You can see here that the words, "kristen berg" don't appear in the title of either files.

There are lots other operators you can use to help narrow your search. If you want to know more, click here.

EduWin with Julia Pugliese and Google Translate

This year, one of the students in Julia Pugliese's second grade class spoke no English. Julia opened up Google Translate, and she and her students recorded short phrases in English, that Google translated to Japanese. While it wasn't perfect, Julia's student understood enough to be able to be able to know where the class was going when they left the room for PE, music, or lunch, and began to be able to follow along in class.

In this screenshot, you can see that I used Ingrid to speak a short sentence in Dutch. Google translated it to English, and I then starred it to save to the phrasebook.

There are also options to type, using the standard US keyboard, but it will also open language specific keyboards and a handwriting tool. 

While I wouldn't recommend using Google Translate for sensitive communication with parents, there are 70 languages available and Google is constantly trying to improve Translate's accuracy with feedback from its users.

And while you may not have occasion to use Google Translate in your classroom, anyone thinking of taking a trip abroad this coming summer? Might want to pack Google Translate with you.

If you or one of your colleagues are doing something in your class that uses edtech tools, please let me know. I'd love to share it with other teachers.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Get Googly/EduWin from Dartmouth

Are you missing the Training  icon that should appear in the top right corner of some of your Google Apps windows? If yours is missing, you'll want to make sure you and your students follow the directions to find and launch the program. It is the icon for Synergyse. 

Synergyse is a training program that provides an interactive way to learn to use Google Apps. By following the step-by-step directions, you and your students will soon become Google Apps for Education (GAFE) experts.

Signing into Google Drive and Enabling Synergyse will tell you how to install it and how to get started.
Since lessons are short and specific, teachers may want to challenge students to become Google Ninjas by completing the modules. It can be a great "What do I do when I'm finished?" activity that students can dip and out of whenever they have time.

We'd be interested in you letting us know how it goes. 

EduWin from the "Dartmouth Tech Divas"

I was really excited to be invited to a Dartmouth Staff meeting where some of the students presented work they have been doing in class. Given the low percentage of women in Science and Technology careers, I was especially excited to learn that the presenters would all be girls. Pam Rissman and Tracy Brown teach all these classes. Pam was kind enough to provide me with this report.

"Eleven girls presented the projects they worked on in different STEM classes offered at Dartmouth, highlighting the importance of having these STEM classes in middle school.  The girls from the computer programming class presented Javascript programs they wrote that increased in complexity; the class requires no prior knowledge in programming yet a student can develop their own interactive graphical games by the end of this self-paced class.  Students from the 3d Modeling class explained how they use the engineering design process to develop their own 3d models in Autodesk Inventor which can later be printed out on the 3d printer. The Robotics class students pointed out different parts of a robot developed in class, including the gears and sensors.  Students from the Green Architecture class discussed the concepts and terms they learned to allow them to build models of houses in Autodesk Revit and to design container homes and environmentally green dog houses. The girls from the STEM 1 class showed the link they established between science and engineering by studying friction in mouse-trap propelled cars and other hands-on projects." 

While diva is generally used to refer to singers, I think of diva as a woman of extraordinary talent. There is no question in my mind that each of these students is extraordinarily talented. How wonderful that they are given the opportunity to explore those talents in classes offered here in the Union School District. Can't wait to see what they have in store for the world.

If you or one of your colleagues are doing something in your class that uses edtech tools, please let me know. I'd love to share it with other teachers.