Course Management Systems and Coaching

Leave a comment

We use ItsLearning for our CMS at WHS and the TEC Online Academy, for whom I teach an online Archaeology course, is shifting from Moodle to ItsLearning. This summer TEC offered a two day workshop on ItsLearning to help us convert our courses. It was great. There were only four of us in the class plus the instructor, who was relatively new to ItsLearning herself, so we all worked together, helping each other, floating new ideas and approaches, etc.

It occurred to me at some point that ItsLearning would be a god resource for my soccer team. One of my goals for the year is to remain as paperless as I was last year but, with the 1:1, do close to no photocopying, and that should seem to apply to my coaching as well.

My JV Girls Soccer ItsLearning page is pretty much done, other than any in-season updating that might take place. Perhaps what I’m most excited about is the info collection. I made a Google form for them to fill out with all of their contact info, positions, etc., and we’re going to try voting for captains on line (and at the end of the season awards). I’m excited about this new forum for my team; it will let me organize, collect, and distribute information more easily and allow me to do more of it (e.g. tactics videos, handouts, etc. that would be forgotten in a chalk talk meeting but might be more effective if available online).



Working More with NoteShelf

Leave a comment

I’ve been playing around with NoteShelf a bit more. Some of the interfaces / menu hierarchies take a bit of getting used to but once you do there’s a lot of potential here. I took pictures of my soccer templates (that I had printed out); I could have exported them as jpgs but I happened to be organizing my soccer bag when I had my iPod with me. And I used the jpgs to create custom papers in Noteshelf. Now I can create notebooks that use those papers. I started a practice notebook and wrote out today’s practice plan on the iPad. (The handwriting isn’t great because, well, my handwriting isn’t great but also I was in bed and didn’t have my stylus.)



Track Changes in Office2HD

Leave a comment

I’ve written before about both Office2HD as my iPad productivity suite of chocie (and I was happy to see that MacWorld agreed, putting Office2HD in their top 3) and my use of Word’s track changes to grade papers on line. I was thrilled to discover (quite by accident, I might add) that Office2HD has track changes. I tested it out, and it works pretty much the same as Word’s. I would like the ink to be red rather than blue (if for no other reason than the blue doesn’t stick out against the black quite as much as I would like), but I can now grade papers on the iPad, which will make life a bit more convenient.


Sharing Files with Pastelink

Leave a comment

Pastelink is the second site this week that I’ve found with no sign up or accounts necessary; that’s a nice thing once you realize it’s out there. In any case, I heard about Pastelink from this blog post. What’s nice about it seems to be (though I’ve never used it) the drag and drop functionality, i.e. no file surfing; just drag and drop into the window; and the no maximum file size. This seems like a good solution for some of those video projects that get trapped on someone’s computer. I’ve included a shot of the home page here, and I’ll keep you updated if / as I use it.

iBooksAuthor: Some (Frustrating) Conclusions


So I have officially closed my experiment with iBooksAuthor. It’s not over yet, technically, because I haven’t actually created a book for the iPad (I’m so close…; more on that below), but I have a bang-up .pdf (if bang-up means sterile, inert, and lacking any multi-media beyond images, which I didn’t need iBooksAuthor to create). Can you tell I’m frustrated?

I took a good number of hours to create an iBook: collecting and changing the format of various media, from articles to videos to audio; formatting everything to look book-like (that’s the point, yes?); trying different aspects of iBooksAuthor (widgets, media, etc.). Done. Finally. Now time to put it on my iPad via the Preview function (as I wrote before, I’m not going to publish because of copyright issues, but I can have my own copy on the iPad via the Preview option). I push Preview. The progress bar appears. Half way through? ‘Can’t Preview’. No explanation. No information or advice. Just ‘Can’t Preview’. Ok. I’ll try a workaround. Export to the .ibooks file. Click export and… ‘An unknown error occurred.’ Well, that’s helpful. I get no advice from iBooksAuthor about what I need to fix. I checked support fora: yes, my iPad is plugged in and seen; yes, I have iBooks2, and it’s open (iBooksAuthor did tell me to do that). I tried different computers, different cords, restarting. Nothing. Same, empty, useless messages. So thanks, iBooksAuthor, for giving me a bloated, infefficient, unintuitive tool for making…a .pdf. I look forward to not having audio or video in my book.

More generally speaking, as I think I said before, iBooksAuthor is a great tool for publishers and companies with creative and design teams who can vett content, who can clear content in terms of copyright, and who can create legal materials for publication. But for the individual (like me), I’m not sure how I could create anything much beyond text without getting everything cleared (and paying for it) before publishing, and this makes iBooksAuthor much more trouble than its worth. (I recently checked out, which wasn’t exactly what I was looking for but is an interesting concept: you bring them the content (or use their already existing content), they compile both your content and the costs of using it, and create a book for you with your content; essentially, a course pack maker).

ShortCal: An Elegant Solution to Short-Term Scheduling

Leave a comment

My last post discussed going paperless and referenced this blog here for resources and as my own starting point for writing about it. One tool I found particularly intriguing from the sources listed there is ShortCal, which provides a simple interface for creating and distributing short-term calendars (seems no longer than seven days, or at least seven days is the longest in the built in pull-down menu).

So I tried it out. I post a weekly schedule for my soccer team, largely because I don’t necessarily know which practice field I’ll be using until the end of the previous week, and something like ShortCal might be great for that. The interface is simple. Name, duration, some options, and then tab through each day of your calendar and type. Enter an email address and it’s done, delivered right to the email. No account, no sign-up, no sign-in, etc. I’ve pasted a screen shot of my test calendar below.

Going Paperless: The Past, Present, and Future

Leave a comment

It first occurred to me to go paperless when I started collecting papers via email. I never was a clear-off-the-dining-room-table grader; I was much more efficient on my laptop, just because that’s where I did all of the rest of my work. So once I stopped lugging home those bulging paper-folders, it occurred to me that I could go paperless in other areas.

Going paperless can be broken down into a few categories (much of this is based on this blog post):

  • calendar / organizing
  • notes / incidental writing / brainstorming
  • assessment creation
  • assessment grading
  • storage / organizing files for yourself
  • storage / organizing files for students or colleagues
  • communication

Here’s what I use in each category:

  • calendar / organizing: iCal / Calendar (Mac). iCloud has made this a viable calendar tool. My calendar isn’t terribly complicated, so this does fine for me, especially since I’ve been able to sync it with school’s GoogleCalendar. I’ve tried Agenda (iOS) and GoogleCalendar (and heard good things about Calvetica) but neither was good enough to replace iCal. I hope to use shared calendars with students this year for my syllabi, something I experimented with last year but wasn’t as effective because not everyone had compatible Mac devices, like they will this year.
  • notes / incidental writing / brainstorming: Evernote. Simple and effective. Essentially a simple word processor with a transparent and more easily navigable file storage structure (like most are). I also like Noteshelf but for a different kind of note-taking. Evernote allows me to put somewhere all those incidental bits of info that I don’t know where to put (and I know that I should be using things like Diigo or Delicious for part of this, but I’ve just not been able to buy in).
  • assessment creation (ugh): none consistently. That’s not to say that all of the ones I’ve tried are bad, but they seem to be tied to either whatever CMS we’re using or another technology. I began with the Promethean ActivVote system, which then morphed into the Promethean ActivExpression system. This is the one I’ve used the most and, if I had to choose, is probably the one I would choose. I’ve also used the quizzing / testing modules in Moodle and ItsLearning, neither of which I love (largely because it’s cumbersome to create the quizzes, e.g. ItsLearning defaults to three distractors, which means I have to add at least one more and then you can’t tab to the new ones) but are serviceable. I’ve used the quizzing / testing module on Engrade, which I don’t like, largely because it won’t transfer the grades to the gradebook until the quiz is closed, which you can’t do (or at least I don’t do) until everyone has taken it. I’ve used Socrative and eClicker, both of which are fine for incidental quizzing and polling but I can’t see committing a curriculum to either of them.
  • assessment grading: Microsoft Word Track Changes. All of the approaches above include self-grading for objective questions. For open ended questions, longer responses, and papers, for me nothing beats Word’s Track Changes. The downloading / uploading or emailing can be a bit cumbersome but for me it’s worth it. I don’t use comment bubbles / notes in the margins; everything is in text so all I have to do is scroll and position. Students can read my comments (with my handwriting a decoder ring is recommended) and, an unforeseen bonus, I have examples of student work to use when writing college recommendations.
  • storage / organizing files for yourself: Dropbox and iBooks. Pure and simple. Dropbox is one of those tools I would find difficult to replace at this point. I can’t fit my entire Documents folder in Dropbox, so it’s not my primary storage space (still have the desktop hard drive plus backup for that) but it’s indispensable for maintaining organization away from home because of its drag and drop capabilities, i.e. Dropbox does the uploading for you when you drag (either move or copy) files into the folder Dropbox installs on your disk, so that the file structure of my Documents folder, with which of course I am familiar, is maintained and so much more easily navigable. Dropbox is available for iOS devices (though you can’t edit via the Dropbox app) and more and more apps integrate Dropbox storage so you can create on your iOS device and save to Dropbox. And a final tip. Be the first at your school to get students on Dropbox; have them put their emails into your invitation screen and you’ll get 500 megs of free extra storage for each one that signs up. I’m up to 15+ gigs on Dropbox. I use iBooks as a convenient repository for things I might need to reference, so lists of students going on field trips, for example, etc. It saves me from printing and keeping track of them and the iPad and iBooks make them easy to access.
  • storage / organizing files for students or colleagues: Dropbox and CMS. I use the CMS (ItsLearning these days) for my primary means of distributing and collecting materials. As I’ve written about before, I’ve used Dropbox to collect things with success. In some ways, it’s easier than a CMS because there’s no uploading. Drag and drop and everything is submitted.
  • communication: GMail & Kikutext. I’m officially done with mail clients. I’ve not used my Mac Mail program in months (I do still use it for the Mail .pdf function, which is very efficient). GMail does everything I want it to and not much that I don’t. As I’ve written about elsewhere, I will experiment with Kikutext this year as I experimented with Twitter last year.

I would say last year I went about 90% paperless. The only thing I was using paper for were some reading packets and any (non-essay or objective) tests I gave. The reading packets at the end of the year I scanned and I still haven’t found a viable solution for my Latin tests. We’ll see. But going paperless is ultimately a decision. There are plenty of resources to do what you do on paper. You just have to commit to finding them, trying them, and committing to them (and the blog linked above has a wealth of resources, though the descriptions are somewhat repetitive).

Older Entries