Storing Documents in the Cloud

Picture this: You have a deadline, it is today. All the work you have done for the last few months is depending on this very moment. You reach in your bag and go to pull out your flashdrive…and it’s not there. You search everywhere then remember- it’s in your laptop at home. ARGH!!! Sound familiar? It’s happened to us all.

Or what about the document you worked on at home, emailed to school, worked on at school, but forget to email back home, and all of the changes now have to be redone so you can submit your work? Been there, done that, have the bald spots on my scalp to prove it.

So what do you do? So glad you asked! You save your documents in “the cloud”. I don’t know how it works, so this post will not be about that. Instead it will tell you how this amazing cloud works to help you remain sane.

I personally use a product called Dropbox. You can download it on every computer that you use and work on any project no matter where you are. I even have it on my phone! Dropbox has a free service with limited storage files, you can pay and have a bigger file space. With all the documents I have on there I am not even close to the limit. The larger the files you save, like pictures, the less room you will have. You can always delete unneeded files once they are no longer of use to you. Personally, I am keeping my dissertation in Dropbox and on a flashdrive. This provides me with peace of mind that it will be there no matter what.There are other similar programs that include Dropittome, Box, and Live Binders.

If you have google email system, then you also have access to google docs. Within google docs you can create word files, spreadsheets, presentations, and other file types. Your documents are stored online and anytime you log in to your email you can access the documents. At the top of your screen when you log in to your email you will see: Mail, Calendar, Documents, Sites, Video, Groups, More. Clicking on documents will take you to the google docs area and from there you choose the file type you want to create. What I love about google docs is that you can share the document with others and you can work collaboratively at the same time on the same document.

I recently sat in on a brainstorming session for technology at my school. There were six people in the room, all with laptops or Ipads, and all of us were typing in a table on google docs, sharing ideas for competencies for middle school technology courses. Everyone shared their ideas, brainstormed, built off others work, and never had to take individual notes to compile later, it was right there at your fingertips immediately. I also used google docs in one of my online classes. We had group assignments where 6 people worked together on a semester long project. Each week we would update google docs with our learning, work, and reflections. Six people from all over the United States got multiple papers completed and made an A+ simply through the use of a file sharing program that allowed us to add our own information at our own pace.

Try it, use it, let me know what you think about it! How can you use these tools in your classroom? Leave a comment with your ideas!

In researching this post I found an excellent resource that I will make a complete post on later, but why wait to share the wealth? This site will help you find more storage options. They also have great ideas for technology enhanced classrooms!

Thinking Maps

So today I would like to share with you a couple of places online I have found to create thinking maps. I have played a bit with both sites and find them fairly easy to use and simple for kids as well. Both sites also offer a share option which allows the teacher to create the basic map, then send invites to the students to go on and add their personal thoughts to the map.

Popplet is the first thinking map program I tried. It is free to use and you simply create an account from the start page and set to work. On the start page you can also watch a video that explains popplet pretty well. You can see popplets created by other users and get to know how popplet works. Popplet has an IPAD APP as well, so that is a bonus for those who have IPADS in the classroom. Once you have your account you are taken to your own homepage where your popplets are stored. You can view published popplets from there as well. To create your own, select the make new popplet button at the top. Name your popplet and select your color, you can always change the color later. The click MAKE IT SO (I like the humor there). You are then taken to your workspace. Here you can add popples by clicking on the blue gear looking tool. When your popple appears, type in what you would like the popple to say. You can add more popples separate from the first or connect them, depending on what you are working toward. To have students help on the creation, click share on the top right side and then add collaborator. If they have accounts, simply type their name and it will appear. You can also type in their email and it will send them an invitation to join. Once you have added them once, they will appear each time you share and you can select them as collaborators.You can also publish the popplet online using the tools they provide, including facebook, twitter, embedding, and link share.

I used popplet last week in class as a way for students to share one thing they learned about the colonists disagreement with Great Britain that led to the Battles of Lexington and Concord up to the Battle of Bunker Hill. Each student posted one or two things they learned. It was a good individual review, as well as class review, as they could all see what the other had posted. I had a few technical difficulties with this popplet and didn’t understand why some student’s posts were showing while others were not, so I emailed the popplet company and immediately got a response, even though it was late in the day when I emailed. They went in to my popplet and figured out what I did and fixed it. I like it when you get help from a company so quickly. Here is the link to my popplet from last week, you may need to be a member to view it.

Another thinking map program I found online is ExploraTree. This site is also free and fairly userfriendly. When you create your account and verify it through email, your first screen that appears is the instructional lesson on how to create the thinking maps. Like popplet,  you can add collaborators and arrange the map to your specifications.

With both programs I would suggest playing around with it and getting to know it some before rolling it out in your classroom. I gave the popplet website to one of my students and asked her to play around with it and let me know what she thought and how she thought we could use it in class. She loved it and created many herself and said she thought our class would enjoy it as well. Maybe you could try that as well. Let a student become the teacher for the program. I always tell the kids I have played with it but I am not an expert, if they have questions I encourage them to figure it out on their own. They learn more that way and I have additional people to help me help others!

So how to use this in your classroom:
*During word study to share definitions, sentences, antonyms, synonyms, and puzzlers.
*During Science you could post a question and students provide answers
*In Writing you could allow students to create their planning using online thinking maps (they can be printed)
*In Reading the teacher can create a map called Best Books Ever and students can add the titles of books they think warrant the title
*In Math students can create problems using maps and invite other classmates to solve the problem

The uses are limitless as you can work on this in the computer lab as a class with immediate updating, or as homework with students adding their thoughts at different times throughout the night or over a week.

Please take a moment to leave a comment on how you could see yourself using online thinking maps in class.