Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Gradequick: Creating Term 2 Progress Reports

A quick how-to...so we can all reach the semi-standardization agreed upon yesterday!

Once you've finished entering grades in Gradequick, select your preferred Report format from the Reports menu.

The EASY way to do this is to select Student and then Single Term Only as follows:

And then, select "View Term 2" from the pull-down menu in the top center of the screen (highlighted in blue below). This will result in a report that includes NO term 1 information, but WILL include all assignments from term two, a subtotal, and a term 2 average and term 2 grade in the upper left hand corner, like this:

From here...

To remove cumulative grade information: In the Students menu, select Student Info. The following window will pop up:

UNSELECT the fields for Final Average and Final Grade, select or unselect other relevant information as you see fit, and select "OK".

To manually select grade information: In the Tests menu, select Select tests and subtotals.... In the resultant pop-up window, select the information you want to include from the left menu, and select OK.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Mastering the Googleverse
Part 1: Searching by Key Phrase

Google. Used effectively, with precision, skill and deliberation, it's the most comprehensive way to sift through the 8.5 billion websites currently online. But size isn't everything. Statistically, most users use Google so ineffectively that they might as well be dipping their hands randomly into the universe to find their information. And it's a pretty big universe.

Today we begin an ongoing series of tips and tricks designed to help you and your students improve the way you search.

Googletip #1: Searching by Key Phrase

Did you know that google and other search engines allow you to treat multiple-word phrases as single keywords?    Today's strategy ensures that a search engine only looks for your words in order, and without other words between them.

Using entire phrases as if they were a single search term or keyword is a valuable way to get the best search results quickly...and to weed out infoglut.

To search by phrase, all you need to do is put quotes around the words you want to find, like this:

"i like new york in june"

Without quotes, Google ignores the words i and in, so the first results you'd get from Google would be those pages which use the remaining words (like, new, york, and june) most often out of the billions of websites "out there".    

In this case, for example, the first result for the UNquoted keywords I like New York in June is a restaurant review in which the phrase New York is separated from the words June and like by a bunch of other words we neither need nor want.   On the other hand, the first result for the properly quoted phrase "I Like New York in June" calls up multiple references to the song "How About You" from the 1941 musical Babes on Broadway -- which is what I was looking for!   

Note, as well, that there were only 977 total results for the quoted phrase, while there are over 25 million results when I don't use today's tip.   Talk about information overload!   

Searching by phrase can be especially useful when...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


A series of short entries to cap off a short week! Today we discuss timesaving (and stress-saving) ways to streamline your use of United Streaming (and other video technologies) in and out of the classroom.
  • Downloading videos can take a while, especially if the Internet is being used heavily district-wide. Downloading during the school day also slows the Internet down for all district users. So don't waste your planning time downloading media! Instead, begin downloads before you leave in the evening -- and it will be there, ready to use, when you return the next morning!

  • Burning videos to CD after downloading them is certainly a great option for saving videos. There are a few burners in the school (Mr. Farber has one), and saving videos to disk allows us to discuss future possibilities for a hard-copy teacher archive, perhaps in the library. But you might also consider saving videos to the network -- you can then play them anywhere in the building!

  • There's no need for each of us to download (or record to CD) every video we need for our own classroom use, by the way. Save your CDs and trade them around. Or, even more useful: if you download a video from United Streaming, and find it useful, save it in the WMS_Teacher_Share folder on the network -- and then let others know, so they can use it without having to wait for download!

  • If a student misses a class in which you use a computer-based video, saving the video to the Student network so he or she can view the video from the homework center is a great way to help students catch up!

  • Planning on using a website or live stream in your instruction? Drag the icon for the web address to your desktop or a network folder before class begins, and it creates a shortcut. Then, when you need it, you -- or your students -- can go directly to that site by clicking on that link!

  • When thinking about how to use videos in your instruction, consider: research on student learning suggests that more students benefit from instructional video if it is not played straight through. Instead, media literacy advocates recommend that teachers pause videos frequently to ask questions, check for student engagement, and discuss the concepts that come up in the video. This mode of use models good critical use of mass media for students. And, as an added bonus, students tend to see the stakes of a given video as much higher -- and attend accordingly -- if we present ourselves as invested in the content of the video as it plays.

Thinking about a classroom activity which would benefit from large-screen projection or one-to-one lab use? Now that we have reworked the "old" computer lab, turning it into a one-computer one-projector presentation space for projection and instruction, computer specials can be more easily moved around your needs. Contact jfarber@hwrsd.org or stop by during your planning period to reserve spaces, or just to find out what's available when you want it!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The World Of Online Reference
From World Book to Wikipedia

On one level, research is all about the sources: how we find them, how we use them, and, ultimately, whether their information is accurate and usefully presented.

Today we discuss World Book Online and Wikipedia -- two vastly different types of online encyclopedias which might change the way you think about student research... and how you use it in your classes!

For several years, the WMS library has purchased a subscription to the World Book Online for use in our school.

Like other online sources, World Book Online allows us to put the "same" copy of World Book into multiple hands at once -- where only one student at one time can use a given volume of the print World Book, the same entry in World Book online can be used on multiple computers simultaneously.

In addition, World Book Online is updated monthly by the same cadre of trustworthy researchers who select and update the print edition. From Social Studies to Science, students studying the modern world can find the most recent and relevant information in World Book Online.

World Book Online is up for renewal this week. Before you decide whether you wish to continue to have it available to our students, please consider the following discussion of a very different kind of online encyclopedia!

Left to their own devices in the library, many students who would benefit best from the World Book (online or in book form) go to Google instead, and from there find Wikipedia quickly. For example, a simple search for Charles Dickens Biography reveals the Wikipedia entry on that subject as Google's most popular result.

99% of the time, Wikipedia is an especially wonderful resource. Organized like an encyclopedia, but cross-referenced by in-entry links to allow students to pursue their own needs as they research, each entry is presented in clear language, and organized by easy-to-access subsection. In just a few years, Wikipedia has gone from a loose assemblage of tiny articles to over 3/4 of a million articles on the usual complement of encyclopedic subjects.

But Wikipedia is a wiki -- a new type of online resource that is created, and editable, by any and all of its users. And thus -- since not all users of the internet have the best interests of other users in mind -- every once in a while, a Wikipedia source which was perfect for your students yesterday has been corrupted since you last saw it.

Wikipedia's core author-and-editor group is a self-selected crowd of intellectuals who quite successfully manage to "revert" any corrupted or mis-written page to its previous stellar accuracy in an average of 8 minutes. And the resource is generally stellar, especially for the most modern and ongoing of issues. But you never know when your visit to a given page will be inside that 8 minute window between page corruption and reversion. As such, Wikipedia information can never be fully trusted as wholly accurate for a given moment in time.

Personally, I recommend Wikipedia to students (highly) with the same caveat I offer for any research: it's a great place to start, but the unique nature of this encyclopedia-like tool mandates that all facts presented be confirmed elsewhere.

An afterthought: Students who are "let loose" in the library for research often run right to the computer. There's a comfort level issue involved here -- students of a digital generation naturally gravitate towards tools of a digital nature. But although we are often suspicious of too much reliance on the world of the Internet for student research, neither print nor digital resources are necessarily "better."

It is true, indeed, that the wider spectrum of possible sources online makes the internet overall a less trustworthy resource than, say, a carefully selected and vetted stack of books in a school library.

But the instantly public and adaptable nature of web pages means that online sources can be much more up-to-date than print resources.

Some online resources are part of a library collection, which means they are selected by district- and school-level profesionals who believe them to best complement the existing resources available on library shelves.

Too, issues of access and collection size come into play when trying to determine whether your class should be doing their research in the virtual world, the real world, or in both for a given research project. What we use should be determined best not by what is there and how, but what we are doing, and why.

There is, then, a whole host of reasons to support the use of online encyclopedic resources for student research.

Even though not all online sources are created alike.

Got a comment? A concern? An idea to share? Leave a comment below, or contact blogmaster Joshua!