Embedding Twitter Feed in ItsLearning (or Webpage)

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I wrote last year about embedding the class Twitter feed in ItsLearning. I did not embed this year because I mandated students use their cell phones to subscribe, but as the year has gone on I’ve realized that sometimes the cell phone system can be glitchy and that it can’t hurt to have the feed on ItsLearning for reference. So I went back to my post to redo the Twitter feed and…the post instructions no longer work.

So after some frustrating searching and trial and error here are the new instructions (and, Twitter, feel free to make this easier to find and to navigate in the future).

  1. It begins at the widgets page here.
  2. Click on ‘Create New’.
  3. In the ‘username’ field, put your username (or the username of the feed you want to embed doesn’t have to be yours).
  4. In the ‘Domains’ field, include the address of the site where the feed is being embedded. This is where I had the most trouble, first not realizing that I needed to include this (this is different from the previous system) and then realizing that I needed Wayland’s specific ItsLearning address: wps.itslearning.com. But once I worked all this out it embedded just fine.

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Loving the iPad Mini

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I’ve had the Mini in school now for five days and I am loving it. The ability to hold it one hand completely changes the experience and functionality (and my hands are not huge by any stretch; one of my students quipped that to the Mini is to Shaq the way the iPhone is to the rest of us).

Here’s a summary of my experience so far.

The case. I struggled with this. I certainly didn’t want a keyboard case like I have for the iPad2 (ZaggFolio, which I love and am using to type this right now); that’s not how I envisioned using the Mini. But I also didn’t want anything too bulky; the whole point of the Mini is its size / thinness and I didn’t want a case to ruin that. I love the simple Apple iPad1 case (the black suedish one) because it gives that basic measure of protection while adding very little bulk. That’s ultimately what I was looking for.

I ended up getting two different cases, since two of us have the iPad. One is on the thin (flimsy?) side, the Griffin, and the other is bulkier but more functional (the Targus). I ended up with the Targus and my colleague the Griffin.

I used the Griffin initially and liked its low profile, but the edge of the window infringes a bit too much on the screen of the iPad, making x-ing out of anything in the corner difficult (lots of unwanted trips to the App Store between Words with Friends turns) and moving apps from one screen to another less efficient at best.

The Targus certainly adds bulk but it includes a propping feature (which the Griffin did as well, similar in functionality to Apple’s original iPad1 case) and, more important, a rotating propping feature, i.e. you can prop in either portrait or landscape view. One of my complaints about that Apple case was that it would only prop in landscape view (acknowledging of course that the rotation mechanism adds a lot of the bulk to the Targus). So I might for now prefer the Targus. It is bulkier but I’ve not noticed the bulk too much.

My idea, though, is to perhaps go the sleeve route. I saw on a site devoted to iPad Mini cases a beautiful leather sleeve which I might spring for myself. I like the sleeve because it affords protection but still maximizes the size advantages of the mini. My tech person wondered what happens when the Mini drops, but I won’t be letting that happen (right?).

In Class. This is where the Mini shines. Being able to hold it in one hand and type with the other is ideal for grading homework, mobility, etc. One of the big questions was about Splashtop, about whether the smaller screen size would hamper Splashtop’s functionality. The early assessment is a qualified no. Writing notes via Splashtop was no different (and there wasn’t the lag time between stroking and appearance that I had experienced before) from the regular sized iPad. Controlling the computer was a bit trickier on the smaller screen, but not enough to offset the other advantages of the smaller size.

An interesting side note about using Splashtop. The Mini is easier to hold in portrait view than landscape view, but of course Splashtop works better in landscape view. The thinner vertical margin (in portrait) become the top and bottom margins in landscape, which leaves no place to put your thumb when holding the Mini. This took a bit of experimenting, but I finally found a position that works, with the thumb in the far bottom corner (where the thicker margin is). This helped with using Splashtop considerably.

So far so good with the iPad Mini. Some aspects of it are clearly lacking to the regular sized iPad but for mobile (i.e. on the go) use there’s nothing to complain about.

Thank You, WHSPO

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The iPad Mini seems to have a lot of potential for the classroom. If we’re seeing more and more iPads in the hands of teachers, especially for mobility and efficiency reasons, the Mini would seem the way to go: saving $170 per device goes a long way across a faculty. But the question is whether the smaller size of the Mini then inhibits its functionality, i.e. is that $170 cheaper $170 worth of decreased functionality. Heather, Mary, and I wanted to find out, so we wrote a WHSPO Mini-grant (no pun intended; the grants are actually called mini-grants) for an iPad Mini for me and Heather and, I’m happy to say, they approved it. So, thank you, WHSPO! I bought the iPad Mini this weekend and am loving it so far. The smaller size so far outside of the classroom is actually quite welcome. We’ll begin to see this week whether or not it impacts my ability to use the iPad Mini in the classroom but so far so good. So thanks again, WHSPO, and to all of you WHS teachers out there, apply for a mini grant (or other grants); they’re a great way to try something out or implement a new program. I’ve been the beneficiary of a number of grants (from both WHSPO and the WPSF); the application process isn’t onerous and the benefits are significant.

Checking Homework with LanSchool

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I was checking some electronic flash cards in my Latin class and had forgotten my iPad (second day in a row). The day before I had tried the ol’ memorize who did and who did not do the homework trick; not sure that worked too well. So, rather than walking around trying to memorize who did it or trying to prevent my laptop from crashing to the ground as I typed in grades (or going upstairs to get my iPad), I realized I could use LanSchool. So I dialed up the class, had them put their flashcards on their screens, and checked them that way, right from my desk. It would work better with a bigger / non-repetitive assignment, i.e. because they do electronic flashcards relatively frequently, I had to zoom to see that they were the right words. But something more recognizable from a thumbnail would have been perfect. (And the one student who made paper flashcards, even though she could hold them up to me, in the spirit of the 1:1, turned on PhotoBooth and relayed her flashcards to me that way; nice job, EK.)

Preparing for Edublogs

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Thanks to the Wayland Public Schools Foundation, we’ll be piloting the paid version of Edublogs. I tried blogging at the beginning of the year, but the ItsLearning interface was just too clunky to pull off. I wrote a grant for Edublogs for Language, History, and English, and it was funded, so we’re just waiting on paperwork and payment before we can get started. I found this link on Twitter, which is a bit dated, but seems to have some good resources (in a well organized approach) for student blogging. I’ll check some of these out as I’m getting ready to roll out Edublogs.

Twitter Resources

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Not quite sure how old these resources are but nonetheless found this site with a host of Twitter resources (though it might be overwhelming to the Twitter novice; it’s almost overwhelming to me; I also wonder how many of the links do similar things, i.e. the extent to which it is comprehensive vs. selective).

Computer Grading of Short Answer Questions

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I’ve mentioned before how conflicted I am about electronic assessment because of its focus on multiple choice (if at least you’re going to take advantage of computer grading, which is the advantage of electronic assessment). ItsLearning, our CMS, offers short answer questions (as many do) but also offers automatic assessment. I tried it out this morning and it works pretty well.

A simple vocab quiz for my Latin class. Last time I did this, I made it multiple choice. I don’t love that not only because of the multiple choice but also because coming up with distractors can be both difficult and time-consuming. So I decided to try the short answer quiz. But, of course, I wanted the computer to grade it. ItsLearning allows for automatic assessment (it’s a check box to be checked at the bottom of the page). There are then two approaches to the automatic assessment: either providing an answer (when there is only one clear answer) or (and here’s the genius part) a keyword with alternatives. So for the vocab quiz I included the first definition as the keyword and the other definitions as alternatives.

Students took the quiz in class and then worked on a derivatives exercise (using Wallwisher). I checked the quiz and was going to manually check the quiz to check for any deviations from my alternatives. This seemed to defeat the purpose of automatic assessment (especially since ItsLearning frustratingly defaults to showing only 10 questions per page and there doesn’t seem to be a setting to change this), which means that you have to link to a new page to see the rest of the questions.

Instead, I decided just to let students come up and show me if there were any, well, questionable answers. One student had spelled grief wrong (greif) which ItsLearning kicked out as wrong, so he got credit for that, and I think four other students (out of 22) came up with questions / petitions. Dealing with those was much easier than checking all 22 quizzes.

So all in all a successful experiment with ItsLearning’s grading of short answer quizzes.

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