Posted tagged ‘teaching tools’

Google Apps For My Classes

March 25, 2008

A couple months ago I decided to start taking my math classes to the computer lab once a week.  The first day I asked everyone to start a gmail account.  It was going just fine until halfway through first hour when Google blocked our server from creating any more accounts.  They though we were spammers.  One of the messages that Google gave students as they were blocked was to set up an account with Google Apps.  


Luckily I already had set up my own website with my own domain so I was able to set up Google Apps before the end of the hour.  I also already had all my students in an Excel file so I had 120 accounts created by the middle of second hour. 

I struck gold.  Google Apps is the greatest way to communicate with classes, and set up collaborative activities. 

Here are some advantages of Google Apps:

1. Set up class email lists.  When I want to give an assignment to a class I simply send an email to 1stHour @ (email).com.  I have even sent emails halfway through class pointed students to a resource that someone had found. 

2. Google Docs.  I have students create Google documents and then share them with me.  I can go in and put comments in the document and grade them.  

3.  Students create their own start page.  I have let students put their own widgets on their start page.  They have the freedom to put various content on their start page as long as they keep a link for their email and documents.

4. Google Sites.  This is the Google version of wiki’s.  It is extremely easy to set up different sites and assign groups of students to work on them. 

5. Everything is free.  You get the Google ads here and there but no one minds.

6. Google is working on updating it.  I trust the thousands of geniuses Google has working on the security and functionality of Google apps.

7. It looks nice and works well.  I spent a long time looking for a wiki service to use for my classes.  The Google Sites interface and polished look beats them all.

8. I am the administrator.  When everyone forgets their password I can reset it.  When I get a new student I can create an account on the spot.

I am going to try to convince the district to switch everything over to Google Apps.  I realize doing something like that is ridiculous but I know I’m right and if anyone takes a look at it I might get lucky.  Arizona State, Northern Illinois, and a bunch of other schools and companies are using it!  Why can’t we?


Writing Tablet for Math

March 24, 2008

I’ve been using  a CyberPad writing tablet in my math classroom.  This has taken the place of my whiteboard, chalkboard (yes I still have a chalkboard), and overhead projector.  Here are some advantages and disadvantages:


1. No more messy overheads. I don’t have the classic blue hand from wiping the overhead with my hand.

2. No more worrying about old markers.  I always get a clear crisp pen line.

3. I can write over all my worksheets.  I don’t have to make an overhead to write on since I just write right over the word document open on the computer.

4. I can save all my work as jpg’s and upload them to my website.


5. I can quickly make a powerpoint and fill in the hard stuff later.  I can make an outline of a powerpoint in a few minutes.   The hard part is using MathType to make all the equations or diagrams that powerpoint can’t do.  Now I can insert the “hard” stuff as I go through the powerpoint with the class.

6. I can have students come up to the tablet to work out problems.  It’s new and students think its cool.

7. I never turn my back on the students to write on the board.  That’s a big one.  I have everything set up so I look at my laptop facing the students and they are looking at the projector screen behind me. 

8.  It can do everything a SmartBoard can do and it’s much cheaper.


1. It takes a while to get used to the writing. It took a couple of hours of writing to get used to it.  I imagine it’s probably true with learning to write on a whiteboard for the first time.

2. PowerPresenter RE doesn’t work perfectly with Vista.  If you have the program running and then your computer goes to sleep, the program stops working.  You’ll need to restart your computer.  (OF course you don’t have to use that program.  There are many other great ones including the InterWrite package.)

3. You can’t move around.  Some would argue that you are stuck to the desk rather than being able to move around the whiteboard.

I just wrote a grant to get wireless tablets for the entire math department.  I am convinced that this is the best way to go compared to a SmartBoard.  I absolutely love the tablet as a teaching tool.