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Posts tagged ‘cell phones’

7 tools that can help your kids work and think distraction free. (Feel free to jump on these yourself.)

I was reminded this morning of a post I wrote several years ago about the distraction caused by our use of tech tools. So . . . a quick update with few new tools designed to help all of us wrangle back our focus.


I’m torn.

Is social media, cell phone use, and technology really good for us? Or can it be so distracting that we (and our students) are unable to focus long enough to think and deliberate on important issues?

Can we use mobile devices and Google and Twitter and all sorts of other tech tools to encourage learning, collaboration, and creativity? If we really can’t multitask but switch quickly between tasks instead, is back-channeling and Tweeting and texting and other forms of social media just encouraging less comprehension and more confusion?

Researcher Maggie Johnson wrote a book several years ago titled Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. Her research seems especially appropriate for social studies teachers:

If we forget how to use our powers of deep focus, we’ll depend more on black-and-white thinking, on surface ideas, on surface relationships. That breeds a tremendous potential for tyranny and misunderstanding.

Let me be clear . . . I strongly support the use of social networks and technology as learning tools. But I’m beginning to believe that we’re not really sure how to use these tools appropriately as part of instruction. We’re not asking enough questions about the best ways to integrate tech into what we do every day.

Can students and instructors really use technology/media/social networks in ways that engage and keep students focused on the truly important?

I think so. But Read more

Tip of the Week: Text messages from the past

A couple of weeks ago, while catching up on a massive backlog of RSS feeds, I ran across a handy tool that seems perfect for helping you integrate Common Core ELA stuff into your instruction.

Created by Russell Tarr and shared out on the incredible Free Technology for Teachers blog (do you think Richard Byrne ever sleeps?), the Classtools SMS Generator does a great job of recreating the look and feel of an ongoing text message conversation. Kids can immediately relate to the idea that two people would use this sort of medium to share information back and forth.

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Tip of the Week – Google Text Search

Everyday, I get the chance to work with a ton of smart people. A ton.

And today I had the chance to learn from my 2000 pounds of friends about Google Text Search – a tool that takes advantage of standard Google Search functions such as weather, maps and local businesses in your cell phone’s text messaging app. Ask Google questions and it will text you back the answers.

To start, it’s easiest to create a new Contact on your phone. I just put Google as first name and Text Search as last name. The mobile phone number for Google Text Search is:


So whenever you want to use Google Text Search, just start typing “Google” into your text app and you’re good to go. If you want to find local businesses, type in a zip code and keyword such as:

67063 pizza

and Google will text you back all of the pizza places in the 67063 zip code area.

You can search via texting for weather, sports, translations and definitions using the standard Google search words.

So you can, or have kids, do quick searches on topics, people, events and a whole variety of things. This seems like one more way that we can use cell phones as a learning tool on the classroom. Especially in those classes that have limited access to laptops and computer labs.

There could be so much info getting sent your way that you might need to turn off that particular search. To unsubscribe to a search, text STOP to 466453.

My 2000 pounds of friends spent much of the late morning brainstorming ways to use Google Text Search. But I’m curious what others are thinking. How would you use Google Text Search?

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QRpedia – Easy QR codes from Wikipedia for classroom use

As an increasing number of people access the internet from their mobile phones, Wikipedia needs to become increasingly mobile. Wikipedia recently created a new mobile front end but how do you get to a Wikipedia article in the first place, especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for ?

Introducing QRpedia.
QR codes – barcodes for the internet – have been around for decades and the technology is increasingly being used in everything from street advertising to museum object labels. QRpedia takes the concept one step further to allow a single QR code to send you seamlessly to the mobile-friendly version of any Wikipedia article in your own language. This system is unique to Wikipedia because no other website has manually created links between languages across such an incredible breadth of topics.

This is a screenshot of the Wikipedia QR code page for the Battle of Gettysburg.

Take advantage of this by creating Wikipedia QR codes for topics in your textbook, for example. Copy the code onto sticky mailing labels, print them out, peel them off and paste into textbooks on the appropriate page.

Copy and paste a QR code into your lecture notes for kids to access during discussions. Paste the code into your handouts. Print out a big version of a code and hang by the door as kids leave the room as review or as outside reading.

Pretty handy stuff!

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10 ways to use QR Codes in your history classroom

I’m sure you’ve seen them. They are showing up everywhere.

QR codes. Those little, square squiggly barcode looking things.

A QR code is a handy way to share all sorts of information quickly and easily – the QR part actually stands for Quick Response.  QR codes are designed to be de-coded by dedicated QR readers and smartphone apps. Codes consist of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background that is unique to specific information. This information might be text, a web site or all sorts of stuff.

And I know you’re asking yourself

So what? I teach history. I got better things to do with my time.

I know . . . cause early on, I was saying the same thing. Kinda cool technology but it doesn’t really help me do my job. But the more I play with them, I’ve become convinced that teachers can use these things to help kids learn.

Especially as more and more of our students are carrying around smartphones and other mobile devices like iPads and iPods, the use of QR codes can be incredibly powerful. Part of the beauty of a QR code is that you don’t need a computer lab or laptops or really anything other than an understanding administrator and a couple of kids with mobile devices in their back pockets.

Kids can learn when and where they want. You provide choices. Individualized instruction. Rapid dissemination of information. Fast feedback. Pretty much what most 21st century education pundits are pushing for.

So I started looking around for ways to integrate the use of QR codes into history instruction. And ran across a great post by Kerry Turner that gives some handy advice for history teachers titled, wait for it . . . 10 Ways to Use QR Codes in a History Classroom.

So with thanks to Kerry, here’s five of the ten.

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10 Best Apps for Social Studies Students

Lindsey Wright from the Online Schools people put together a nice list of mobile apps useful to social studies teachers and asked to post them here. Let me know what you think.

Smartphones and tablets have become some of the greatest tools for social studies and history classrooms. Programs or apps available for these devices are useful for more than killing time or listening to streaming music. They are advanced programs allowing individuals to carry out research, write dissertations, share information with users from around the world, and everything in between. Here are a few of the top mobile apps for social studies, history, economics, political science, and more.

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