Technology Pursuit

Blending Technology Into the Language Arts Classroom

Month: May 2015

Google URL Shortener: Getting the Details

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 9.00.00 AM

If you use Google URL Shortener, you’ve seen this same drop-down menu that I’ve seen thousands of times.  Until this week, however, I’d never checked out the “Details” option.

Let me tell you:  it’s pretty cool.

Google URL Shortener


By looking at the details, you can see how effective your shortened URL is at streaming traffic to your page.  Above is the details page for my Chrome Extensions page on my website.  Not only can you see how many people have used the shortened URL, but you can also see the referrers, the browsers, and even the platforms.

What I find the coolest for students is the world view.  After teaching them to promote their blogs using shortened URLs, they can see how their audience goes far beyond their teacher, their classmates, or even their town.  It’s a global audience (and thanks to the viewer in India who checked out this page in time for me to present it at the Summer Tech Institute this week!)

Lights, Camera…Inventory

The other day during lunch, I lamented that I still needed to update my inventory for my classroom. That’s when our industrial tech teacher shared how he did inventory.


I can only imagine the nightmare of trying to inventory a woods shop, like him, or a science lab, or an equipment room for physical education. His solution, however, was to take a photo of each area of his shop, knocking his inventory time down to mere minutes.

So I adopted his brilliance and did the same:









My one regret is that I didn’t take the  photographs before two of my marvelous students boxed up my library; having the books all shelved rather than in boxes would be much more effective and time-saving. In the past, I’ve only put a $ estimate on my library books, not wanting to spend the hours it would take to inventory each on individually.  Taking a photo of each shelf would give me evidence of all my titles should a catastrophe strike and I needed to reorder my entire library.

But doing this saved me the time of counting, counting, counting textbooks. And if I do need an exact number, I can go to my original photo and zoom in.

Thanks to my colleague, Devin Muirhead, for this teacher hack.


The 2014-15 Expository Literary Journal is Done!!!

My project today:  Putting together this year’s literary journal for my college comp students.  Next year, I MUST teach them how to do this on their own!

I do enjoy it, though.  There are some great essays in here, and many others that, due to publishing limitations, just didn’t make the cut.  Each student could only submit one, so many great pieces of writing produced this year aren’t in the book but were still amazing.

If you want to order a hard copy or PDF for your e-reader, go to Blurb via the links below:


Check it Out: Planting WebPages in Pear Deck!




PD updateGreat news showed up in my inbox today!  Pear Deck  has announced its latest update:  embedding websites in Pear Deck slides.  Until now, you could paste active links in slides, but now students can interact with the websites, and when you’re ready to move on, you can move them onto the next slide.

This has great potential for allowing students more interaction with real world material.  I’ve been accustomed to using Awesome Screenshot to paste images and charts into slides.  Now, I can embed the webpage and allow the students to find the info on the page themselves.  Less work for me, more realistic for them–I can’t wait to put it to use (next year, though, since semester finals start Friday!)

Want to know more?  Attend the webinar at 4pm EST on Thursday, May 14, 2015.


Curating Links with Blendspace and Symbaloo

Ever read an article or run across an app and think, “I’d love to use that when I teach (fill in the blank).” Then you bookmark it. Or pin it to Pinterest.  And months later, you run across that bookmark/pin–usually a week after you’ve just finished the (fill in the blank) unit.

I’ve found a solution–at least for me.  It’s Blendspace.

Blendspace   C4 L Review


With Blendspace, I can link any webpage, as well as YouTube videos, Google Drive docs, Dropbox contents, and other options.  More importantly, I can use the “Blendspace it!” button on my bookmark bar.  If I find a page I want to use in the future, I click the button, and Blendspace saves it for me.  Later when I’m on the Blendspace site, I can go through the pages I saved and distribute them to my different “lessons.”

“Lessons” is what each page of links is called in Blendspace.  I have one for many of my units, as well as PD workshops I’m planning.  I’ve shared my pages with colleagues so they can use them in class, but other teachers also share their Blendspace pages with students.

But say you want to fit LOTS of links on a page.  Perhaps a page of links to student blogs or e-portfolios.  Maybe you’ve got a slew of resources you use in class.

As for me, I had three dozen student create Smore pages for their poet studies, but I wanted to collect them all in one place, and I wanted more than just a list of links.  I wanted something visual.

Enter Symbaloo.

Expecting my students to read all their classmates’ Smores is unrealistic, but by setting aside classtime and curating links to all the Smores here, students were able to visit each other’s pages.  (I wanted them to leave comments, but our school filter blocked it since Smore uses the Facebook message system–next time I’ll have to find a work around for this).

I also plan to use a Symbaloo page next year with oft-used class links, such as Google Drive and Gmail, Quizlet, Memrise, Curriculet, etc.


My Gamification Elevator Pitch

The past weeks I’ve talked about my desire to gamify with my students.  My principal.  Even my mom.  None of them shot me down…yet I never felt that I won them over. I’m so excited about the prospect and have so many reasons and ideas buzzing around my head, but ask me to explain my reasons why–and I start to ramble.

 Thus, the need for an elevator pitch.


Kevin Brookhouser writes about it in his book The 20Time Project, and essentially, my study of gamification has been my 20Time project this semester, albeit an informal one.  And since I also want to start my students to create 20Time projects next year in lieu of their traditional research papers, including an elevator pitch as Brookhouser describes, then I need to do it myself.

 (In parenthesis are Brookhouser’s outlined steps.)

 (Problem Statement) Over the past twenty years, technology has transformed communication and education, yet the traditional high school curricula has not.  Even with this brand new world of technology, students aren’t any more motivated than some of my classmates and education isn’t taking advantage of the full potential our current technology provides.

 (It Gets Worse) I still see highly intelligent students not engaged, other students who aren’t receiving the extra attention they need, and still other students stalling out rather than accelerating ahead because I’m trying to keep everyone “in the same place” in my instruction.

 (Glimmer of Hope) By gamifying my classroom with both game mechanics and project-based learning, I believe more students will be motivated.

 (Novel Solution) Gamification, or Dr. Chris Haskell’s term of “quest-based learning,” provides students with autonomy, purpose, and mastery. Students feel they have ownership and choice over their learning.  With more project-based learning, students feel more purpose to their work. And with focusing on mastery and standards-based grading rather than traditional bell-curve grading, students can move at their own pace and not feel that a failure is going into the gradebook.

 (Credible Authority) As a blended learning teacher who’s spent dozens of hours researching gamification, I can transform my curriculum into a gamified format that will be more motivating to a wider span of students.

 (The Vision) I know it won’t be easy and perfect, but I envision my classroom as a place of independent learning; where students are working on different tasks that fit their speed and abilities; where they have choice and purpose with their work; and where I can work with students or small groups rather than standing in the front of the room lecturing.

 Going Up...Creative Commons License Jamie via Compfight

It’s a little long.  It may take a couple elevator rides.

The most important words that stand out to me are these:


Ultimately, this is why I want to gamify my room.  Not for the badges, though I see some benefits to those.  Not for my students to earn currency to buy pencils or erasers or assignment passes–I plan on being way too busy working with students or providing feedback to run a classroom store.  And not because I’m a gamer–because I’m the biggest rookie player out there.

I truly believe that providing students with autonomy, purpose, and keeping the focus on mastery, my students will be more engaged, resulting in them progressing further and learning more.

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