Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Online Planbooks

This past year I converted to an online planbook midway through the year.  There were two reasons that contributed towards this decision.  First, I always found my planbook being buried underneath a pile of stuff on my desk (I admit, I’m a little messy).  What was the point of me taking time to write in my planbook if I could never find it to look at it?  The second reason was that I felt that it was a waste of me time to keep rewriting my plans year after year.  Of course I change things up, but for the most part my plans don’t change too much year to year.

The first website I came across was PlanBookEDU and this is the one that I used last year.  I really like the way that it is set up.  I teach two different classes each with an extra period on a rotating basis.  I set up my planbook to have 4 periods.  One for each of my classes and one for each of the rotating extra periods.  It’s simple to copy things to show up every day, every other day or every 4th day.  For example, I have it set up that the title LAB shows up every other day on the period I have set up for my Chemistry lab.  Now I can look ahead a few months and not have to count days to see if it’s a lab day or not.  There are a lot of other features that are also offered, that I didn’t take advantage of.  These include things like attaching files and adding in standards.  One feature that I really like and want to point out is the bumping feature.  What happens to me sometimes, and I’m sure it happens to you too, is that something comes up (fire drill, students not understanding the lesson or other interruption) and you can’t finish your lesson.  Now everything needs to be pushed back one day and PlanBookEDU has a bumping function to easily do that.

The one feature that made me pick PlanBookEDU was the fact that you could copy your entire planbook over to next year and then go in and edit individual lessons that you would want to change.  Well, last month when I went to copy last year’s plans over to next year I found out that this was one of their premium features (of which you need to pay $25 a year).  Needless to say I was more than disappointed.  I have seen discount codes for this site before, so I’m hoping one will pop up soon as I would pay $5 or $10 for this feature (because it’s so much of a time saver), but for this one feature I think $25 is just too much.  I could simply just change the dates on my current planbook, but then I would loose any record of this past year’s book.

I went looking for another website that was similar to house my planbook and I came across Planbook Maker.  Once again, there are features that are free and some that you have to pay for.  While I don’t like the interface as much as PlanbookEdu, one thing I do like is the fact that you can copy planbooks as part of their free plan.  What I don’t like is that you can’t automatically block out vacation days and you can only copy things on a daily basis, you can’t copy things to repeat every 2 or 4 days.

In the end, I have to say that I like PlanbookEDU the best, but I just hate that you have to pay for the feature that I want the most (the feature to copy the planbook year to year).

Do you utilize an online or electronic planbook?  What do you think of it?  Which one do you use?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Online Textbooks

Recently I had to good fortune of guest posting on my favorite tech blog, Free Technology for Teachers.  I wrote about how I have been using free online textbooks in my classroom.  Take a look at my post and let me know what you think!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

19 Pencils

19 Pencils is a website that has the goal of being your one stop shop for things on the Internet that you would want to use with your class.  They have a short video where they describe their vision.  Basically it allows you to save websites that you want to use with your class to your 19 Pencils class page.  It also has a Chrome extension for those who use that browser. This allows you to add websites to your 19 Pencils account without having to go to the 19 Pencils website.  Then students can visit this page and have access to all of the websites that you want them to visit.

In addition to just being a place to collect websites, you can also give each student their own log-in so that you can track how often students log in.  There is also a feature to create assignment and quizzes.  This feature has been giving me some trouble on my PC and didn't work well on my Mac either.

Right now they are still ironing about the kinks of this website as it is a beta.  I like the concept of this website and I am going to hang with a bit to see if it gets better (another review will follow if it does).  Until it's out of beta, when you create an account you are given the premium account for free.  In the future this will change and there will be a free and a premium account, but it's still unclear what features you will have to pay for.

My thoughts?  I like the idea of this website and I think it does have potential.  I would have students read through websites and then take a quiz on the content afterwards.  I really like this for when I am absent, because it's very self directed and I don't have to worry about which sub is in for me.  The user interface doesn't always work as it should, but hopefully that will be fixed.

Have you every used 19 Pencils?  What do you think of it?  Do you have a similar website that you use and like better?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

PDF to Word

Many people have pdf files that they would like to convert to word documents because they would like to edit them. Here are a couple of things that I have used to complete this task.

1.Adobe Acrobat Pro - This is not the same Adobe Acrobat that you can download for free, but sometimes schools have it installed on their computers and you don't even know. If you open a file in Adobe Acrobat Pro you will have the option to "export" your document as other files such as .doc or .rtf. If you aren't familiar with .rtf, it's stands for rich text file and it a simple standard file that can be opened by almost every word processing program.

One thing I don't like about this is that the word document you create puts every paragraph into a text box. I usually take the 5 minutes to pull everything out of the text box and delete them because I feel it gives me more control over reformatting the files.

2. Google Doc/Google Drive - When you upload a file to Google Docs, you get a few options about how you want to upload it. One of the options asks if you want to "Convert text from PDF and image files to Google documents". If you choose this option, Google will create a Google doc out of your .pdf. Then you can download it as a word document or leave it as a Google Doc.

When you do this, the file created will first have an image of your .pdf so you can see what it originally looked like and then it will have the text file. The formatting will be off so you'll have to play around with that a bit.

3. PDF to Word - This is a website where you can upload your pdf file and they will e-mail you the word document. I have to say, that I like this one the best in terms of formatting. It kept my font and formatting almost 100% the same as the original pdf.

Have you tried any other websites or programs that worked well for you? Please share your thoughts on them!