Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Using An Email Alias to Receive Student Work

Have you ever asked students to email their work to you and all it does is create a big mess in your inbox?  If you don't use a Learning Management System, then one way to organize incoming assignments is to use an email alias.  Both Gmail and Hotmail have this capability.

Gmail Users
Here's a synopsis from the Gmail help page:  "Gmail doesn't offer traditional aliases, but you can receive messages sent to You can set up filters to automatically direct these messages to Trash, apply a label or star, skip the inbox, or forward to another email account."

For teachers, this means you can filter student emails by period.  For example, your Period 1 students can send their work to while your Period 2 students can send their work to msjosiebruin+period

You can use up to 30 Gmail aliases, so use them wisely.

If you don't know how to create a filter, visit this Gmail Help Page.

Hotmail Users
One nice feature of using a Hotmail alias is that your alias can be vastly different from your username.  Maybe your email address is, but your alias is ""  You can send out email using your alias without ever giving away your real email address.  You also can't log into Hotmail with your alias, so that can be an additional layer of security for some.

Hotmail allows a total of 15 email aliases, but you are limited to creating only 5 per year.  To get started on creating a Hotmail alias, click here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

How iPads Transformed My Classroom in 20 Days

Last fall, my school deployed a cart of iPads to be shared amongst 51 teachers and approximately 1500 students.  I’ve always loved teaching with technology and have always dreamed of going 1:1 with my students.  So though I long to sign up for the cart every day, I usually wait until the last minute to give others a chance before claiming it for myself.  

Our iPads are not fully loaded with apps, and since our school hasn't set up an Apple Volume Purchase Program account yet, I make do with what few free apps we have.

So far, I've been able to clock 20 days of iPad use in my English Language Arts class.  How have I been using them?  These are the apps and activities I've used with my students.

1.  Students used a sticky note or mind mapping app for character analysis.  Students could choose from ABC Lite, PoppletLite, iBrainstorm, iCardSort Lite (there used to be a free version), Stickyboard, Idea Sketch, Mindjet, and SyncSpace.

2.  Students used to ask questions and to vote for the most thought-provoking ones.  They can also answer each other’s questions.  Additionally, was used to brainstorm different thesis statements for their upcoming essay.  GoSoapBox events were set up for each thesis, and students had to join an event to submit their supporting evidence.  Lastly, they critiqued each other’s contributions and had an opportunity to defend their choices if their quotes were deemed irrelevant.

3.  Students used Edmodo to join or start a literary discussion on our current text.  Soon, they were initiating discussions on their own at home without waiting for me to assign a topic.  (Update:  In the fall of 2012, I switched to Schoology and never looked back.  Read my blog on my experience with various learning management systems, and why I chose Schoology over all the rest.)

4.  My students used Kidblog to write app reviews, reflect on their readings, and explore intellectual topics.  A number of them ended up writing more than double the amount of blogs assigned.  These became my distinguished bloggers, and I had the class vote for the coveted title of “Blogger of the Month.”  I plan on awarding this title once a month.

5.  Students also used Nebulous Notes Lite to write responses to the literature we were reading.  The integration with Dropbox was an added plus since students could just upload their files to Dropbox.  Because I set up a shared folder on the iPad, everything they put in that folder would just instantly show up on my laptop or iPad.

6.  Students also used Dropbox on the iPad to follow my presentation slides, access handouts I created, and read speeches and poetry.  If my district’s network didn’t have such a rigid firewall, I could’ve also used Idea Flight or Join Me for this purpose, but alas, I couldn’t.  (Update, the Nearpod app is a great way for students to follow along a presentation. You can also add quizzes, polls, and drawings to elicit active participation.)

7.  I used GoogleForms to ask questions for anything I wanted to know, such as their daily technology use, their choice for “Blogger of the Month, how they felt about using iPads in the classroom, etc.  I called it the “Student Pulse.”  It’s a great way to know what they think about anything relevant to their learning.

8.  My students used Socrative to take quizzes, polls, or answer questions.  The “Exit Ticket” feature is great, and you can get a spreadsheet of their responses emailed to you.  Plus, you can randomize the questions on a quiz!

These are just a handful of activities I’ve had the opportunity to try with my students.  Like I said, without the AVPP account set up, our app collection is a bit sparse right now.  However, I feel that my students have accomplished a lot in just 20 days.

Imagine what they can do if we could use iPads every day.

Right now it’s just a dream of mine.  But I hope to make that into a reality soon.

Update:  As of the 2012-2013 school year, I began teaching in a 1:1 iPad classroom.  Dreams do come true in schools after all.