Posted by Rita Phillips on Tuesday, Jan 8th, 2013.

Remember typing up your resume for the job you now have?  Chances are many of you have not done this for some time, and chances are you did this on a Word document-or dare I say on a typewriter.  (Yes, we have some teachers in our district that old, and I'm one of them.)

Well things are changing rapidly.  There are currently many different FREE digital tools anyone can use to create a résumé or a digital portfolio.  These sites are fairly easy to use, but do take a little longer to create as you will be uploading images, documents, and anything that makes you look good to a perspective employer.

One of sites, Visual CV , is the one I chose to update my resume with.  As you can see, this program has a clean, professional look.  It took me a few hours to put this together, but it is well worth it if you want to stand out from others.  Moreover, if you want to print your résum é, you can do so as a PDF file.

Another site that I need to explore a little more, but certainly appears stress-free to use is PathBrite .  PathBrite allows individuals to create beautiful, colorful digital portfolios.  Allowing you to import documents from Google Drive, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Youtube as well as your computer files, is a nice feature that is not found in all the ePortfolio generators.

For a very slick looking ePortfolio, you don't want to pass up DoYouBuzz .  Users can pick their own designs and colors as well as effortlessly upload images, documents, and videos. 

Finally, SlideRocket , an online presentation creator, has some P résum é templates that can make employers take a long look at you.  Check out the three Présumés in this link .

Although not an exhaustive list, these four online résumé and ePortfolio tools will enable you or someone you know to stand apart from the throng of individuals vying for jobs in today's tough market.


Posted by Rita Phillips on Sunday, Jan 6th, 2013.

You might first be asking what a QR (quick response) code is.  It is defined as "a 2-D barcode readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera, and smart phones."  Many people use QR codes to discover more information on products, restaurants and the like.  However, QR codes are making their way to the classroom.

Teachers can use QR codes to create scavenger hunts around their schools.  One website that makes it easy to do just this is Class Tools .  This site allows teachers to input their questions and answers.  Then it generates a QR code for each question.  The way this scavenger hunt works is that students would work in groups to find the codes and write down the questions.  Then they can come back to the classroom and use their phones for more research or read the article from which the questions were gleaned to find the answers.

If, on the other hand, you would prefer to hand students a paper with the questions and their job is to find the answers from the QR codes, then Quirify is for you.  Simply input the question number and the answer, and then generate the code.  Download the code as a jpg or gif image which you will import into a Word doc to be printed.  Place these around the school, and with questions in hand your young scavengers are off and running.

Here is the first QR code in the activity I created for students beginning a unit on Jewish partisans during the Holocaust. Go ahead.  Use your code reader and see how this activity begins.

I will also take a moment to mention Visualead which is a QR code generator that allows you to create images to can be scanned for info rather than bar codes.  I haven't actually tried this one yet, but it looks like fun.

Of course to be successful with this activity, you must make sure at least 7 or 8 students in class have downloaded a QR reader.  Here are some from which to choose.

I-nigma :  This seems to be a QR reader for any phone.

QR Droid : This is a QR reader for Android phones.

Kaywa :  After inputting the address, your phone will determine if it is compatible with Kaywa. :  This reader will automatically discover your phone's manufacturer.  Afterwards follow the download instructions.

Of course there are so many other QR code readers from which to choose.  Simply Google QR code readers and have fun.  Happy Scavenging!

(New Message)

Posted by Rita Phillips on Thursday, Jan 3rd, 2013.

Think you know what college is like?  Think it is unaffordable?  Well, you may be right about traditional college courses at universities, but the world is changing and MOOCs may be the answer for young people you know. 

When I asked my husband, a relatively tech-saavy guy, if he knew what a MOOC was, he said, "Yeah, that's a stupid person."  After I had stopped laughing I explained that he confused mook with MOOC.  MOOC is an acronym for Massive Open Online Course and it is altering the way people are getting educated after high school.

This video will explain what a MOOC is better than I could.

Here are some places offering MOOCs:

Carnegie Mellon University

A Number of University Courses


Harvard, Berkley, Wellesley, et al.

iTunes U

MIT Open Courses

Stanford Open Online Courses

Open Yale University Course

Naturally these aren't the only places to find MOOCs, but it will give you a flavor of the types of universities offering courses.  Many are free or change a nominal fee for high quality courses.  Know someone who could benefit from these courses?  Please share this link with them.

Posted by Rita Phillips on Monday, Dec 3rd, 2012.

Admittedly, this is not my area of expertise, but when I saw some of these sites I thought some of you science and math teachers could use these.

Scale of the Universe

Amusement Park Physics

Science 360

World Wide Telescope  This is a download but well worth it.

NOVA  Interactives and Videos

10 Marks  Looks like a very good way to individualize instruction for math students.  Even provides video and audio help.  The downside is that the speaker on the audio in not a native English speaker and the accent might be problematic for some students.

Manga High  This is a games-based math teaching resource which also allows for individualizing for students or it could be used for TAG students who finish work early.

Cool Math Games

Johnnie's Math Page  Over 1000 math activities here.

AAA Math

Posted by Rita Phillips on Monday, Dec 3rd, 2012.

Teachers are always looking for documentaries or feature films to supplement what they teach in class.  With that in mind, I set out to find free movies online for teachers.  The feature films are generally older and a lot of them are in black and white but the genres range from film noir to comedy to drama to sci-fi horror. 

500 Free Movies Online

Internet Archive Feature Films

Free Alfred Hitchcock Movies

Here are some sites which feature newer movies:

Indie Movies Online

There is even a Youtube site which provides feature films and documentaries.  The one caveat is that some you must pay for.  Prices range from free to $9.99.

Youtube Movies

Let's not forget documentaries.  The web has a wealth of sites dedicated to documentaries.  Here are a few.

Folkstreams  This site focuses on American root culture featuring music and art.

Top Documentary Films  This is a great site for tons of documentaries.  If you don't find what you want, go to the search box and input a topic; this should bring up documentaries on the subject.

125 Great Science Videos  The name speaks for itself.

The I Files  Investigative documentaries on Youtube.

Documentaries on Youtube

John's Locker  Great site for educational documentaries.

Posted by Rita Phillips on Sunday, Dec 2nd, 2012.

Clickers are a fun and engaging way to formatively assess how students are doing; however, not all schools can afford student response systems.  Here are a few free programs teachers can use in the classrooms and students can respond via iPads, cell phones, or on computers in a lab.

Poll Everywhere

Infuse Learning

Kwiq Poll

Naiku Quick Question



Question Press

Posted by Rita Phillips on Sunday, Dec 2nd, 2012.

Did I mention I taught English and writing for 20 years?  Yes, it's true and if I'd had access to the following digital tools, students might have been more engaged.

Make Belief Comics provide writing prompts and over 350 free printables.

Digital Photo Promtps for writing.

Kidblog:  Safe and simple blogs for elementary students.

Edublogs:  Blogs for secondary students.

Penzu: a personal writing journal.

Essay map:  Help elementary students write an expository essay using this digital tools with plenty of bells and whistles.

Persuasion Map:  Write a persuasive essay using this fun digital tool.

Grammarly: Check for plagiarism and grammar errors.

Inklewriter:  Create interactive stories.

Posted by Rita Phillips on Thursday, May 3rd, 2012.

Envision this. Students scurrying through the hallways, pack mules burdened with their academic load-backpacks bulging with textbooks. Wait. That's what students do now, isn't it? What about a different vision?

 Try this. Students, still scurrying through the hallways (let's face it; they're always late), carrying binders and a Kindle or an iPad with their six textbooks loaded on their device. Call me crazy, but I believe this is the future. A person can dream, can't she?

 Okay, so you don't have those devices now, fine. Let's not waste time focusing on what we don't have. Let's talk about textbooks. Assuming a textbook costs between $50-$80, when a department is up for textbook adoption, the district pays a hefty price for those books. Could that money be spent better elsewhere? Perhaps on those Kindles or iPad?

Currently there are so many FREE textbooks online for a variety of subjects. The first one I would like to introduce to you is Flexbooks by CK-12 .  It is a site filled with many textbooks in a variety of subjects for grades 6-12.  The site was created by a non-profit organization in California whose purpose was to provide free online textbooks for educators that align with California state standards.  This site provides a way for teachers to "create" their own text by gleaning only the chapters they need from an available textbook.  Although I could explain it to you, this video says it all.

For those who teach social studies, there are a number of online textbooks at your disposal and they are all free.  The following three textbooks were written by a Pennsylvania history teacher of the year.  Each book has numerous links for further study alongside the text.  The titles are US History , American Government , and Ancient Civilizations . Digital History is a fantastic US history textbook with contributors such as the Teaching American History folks and the Gilder Lehrman Institute.  You will find primary source documents, lesson plans, project ideas, and even video clips. And finally, Reading Like an Historian , is a superlative social studies textbook with an emphasis on primary sources and analysis of those sources.  It was created by the Stanford History Education Group at Stanford University and has been lauded by such organizations as Teaching All the primary sources you need to teach lessons, as well as the lesson plans and handouts are provided for ease of printing. I could expound further, but you can see for yourself what kids think of this way of learning by watching the following video .

Although I'm not a math aficionado, I have heard of Dan Meyers who was featured on TED TV.  He seems to be revolutionizing the way math is taught.  He has created two complete courses online:  one for algebra and one for geometry . If you've never heard him speak, check out his inspiring and funny video here .

Finally, although I am sure there are many others, I'd like to end by discussing Flatworld Knowledge textbooks.  If you teach an advanced class or an advanced placement class, you may want to check these college texts out. You will first need to set up a free account.  Then choose your textbook, and just like Flexbooks , you can rearrange the chapters or edit certain sections of the textbook to meet yours and your students' needs.  To understand more, click to watch the video .

Now, back to my original dream: handheld devices and online textbooks.  Is it possible? Have you noticed the computer every child brings to class in his pocket every day?  Can you say cell phone?  Ah, but maybe that's a conversation for another day.


Posted by Rita Phillips on Sunday, Dec 4th, 2011.

When you first open up Smart Board (Smart Notebook) software, it can appear a bit overwhelming, but don't worry.  There are many free tools to help get you started designing fantastic, interactive lessons for your students.  One such tool comes with your software.  Simply open the software, click on "file," and scroll down to Smart Notebook Tutorial.  Taking the time to go through this software will prove invaluable as you learn how to use your board for effective classroom lessons.  In addition, Smart Technologies has created some easy to follow video tutorials.  Here are some of the best.

The Ink Layer

Managing Pages

The Properties Tab

The Lesson Activities Toolkit

Click to Reveal

Erase to Reveal

Random Generator

Magic Tunnel

Magnifying Glass

Page Recorder

Pull Tabs

Posted by Rita Phillips on Wednesday, Nov 23rd, 2011.

Lori Huntley teaches math and social studies at South Middle School.  Students in her math classes can find extra help understanding how to work math problems thanks to Lori's inventiveness.  Lori pieced together her flip camera with a small stand which sits on a table covered by a large section of white board.  Working and talking through a problem with the camera as a silent witness, Huntley is able to record a lesson that she later posts on her webpage for her students to access when they are at home and need extra help.  Now that's innovation!  In addition to her hard work in the classroom, Lori also acts as advisor and instructor for South's Robotic Club.  These middle school students, under her tutelage, create amazing robots that perform specific tasks, but it's not all for fun.  The club will be involved in a contest on December 10th in Medford.  The contest will pit South's team with another local team to see which robots can successfully complete the given tasks. Here's wishing them well and "hats off" to Lori Huntley, an amazing teacher who combines her love of students with technology to do some incredible things in the classroom. 

Posted by Rita Phillips on Wednesday, Nov 16th, 2011.

Students who don't participate in discussions, kids who misbehave, children who don't do their homework: these are all common teacher complaints and common student behavior. I know these are common because this is my 31st year of teaching and it seems I generally encounter students like this. Near the beginning of my career, all teachers in the district where I worked had to attend several workshops on assertive discipline. What a pain! Imagine little Johnny talking while you are instructing students. Up goes Johnny's name on the board. Johnny pays little heed and keeps talking. Now you put a check mark beside Johnny's name. This process continues until Johnny reaches a magical number, and at that point he stays in for recess (read self-punishment). Now imagine 3 or 4 Johnny's in your class. What a system! I didn't feel assertive; I felt downright hostile by the end of the day. Eventually assertive discipline went the way a system like that had to go--into the trash heap.

 Fast forward to 2011 and a site called Class Dojo. I stumbled upon Class Dojo this weekend as I surfed the web. At first glance I thought this would be a great tool for elementary and middle school teachers, but I knew I needed to try it in my classroom before recommending it to teachers. Before I discuss how the program worked with my sophomores, juniors, and seniors, let me explain the process. The first step, of course, is to sign up for a free account. Setting up your classroom is very easy; you simply input your students' names. To get fun little avatars for each student, there is one catch. You need to recommend Class Dojo to one person by inputting his/her email address. The next step is to determine the positive behaviors you want to see your students exhibiting, and the negative behaviors you want to extinguish. Simply type those in and pick the images to go with the behavior.

Back to my classes. First period is a nice class, but they rarely participate in classroom discussions, a behavior I definitely wanted to change. Yesterday before students came to class, I projected their Class Dojo page with all their names and avatars onto the screen at the front of the room. Then I began a classroom discussion about a movie we had just finished viewing. All were initially silent, until one young man raised his hand and attempted to answer a question I had posed. I sought clarification on his response, clicked on his name, and clicked on the "participation" icon. Immediately he was awarded 1 point. A second hand immediately went up and with the same result. Magically many hands went up to participate in this serious discussion. I made sure not to call on the same students too often, to spread the points around. Near the end of the discussion, I noted one young lady had taken out her book and had put in her earbuds to listen to her ipod. I clicked on her name and on the "not paying attention" button. 1 point was deducted. (I also confiscated her ipod.) I was thrilled, but would this work with a classroom of students who like to socialize a little too much? I was eager to find out. The minute the bell rang to begin class, my little socialites began buzzing. It took a short moment for students to notice negative points by their names, but soon the class was completely quiet. Students were more surprised rather than annoyed. I explained how I was going to use this data for the participation part of their grade. This class, too, went amazingly smoothly.

If it can work for high school students, I believe it can work for you. The only additional items you need to make this truly work well are the following: a remote mouse (Christmas gift?) so you are not tethered to your desk. Oh, apparently you can also use a Smart phone to award points--works like a remote mouse. Give it a try. If you need help, I will be happy to come to your classroom and help you set it up.

Posted by Rita Phillips on Monday, Sep 12th, 2011.

Making webquests just got easier.  Our google apps will allow you to do so with ease.  I have created a user guide power point presentation to take you through the process.  First, make sure you go to "staff" and "other applications."  Then, click on Google Apps.  Type in your user name and password and follow the slide show directions after that.  After you have created your webquest, copy the URL of your webquest home page and put the link on your School Center web page.

Posted by Rita Phillips on Monday, Sep 12th, 2011.

Many of you have asked how to upload videos onto your web page. It's not very difficult. I suggest you create a new page (a scrapbook page) and upload your video in the content box.  You can label your new page something like "Instructional Videos" or "My Class Videos."  Check out the power point user guide I created to help you.  Because there are many pictures in the slide show it may take 60-90 seconds to open.  Make sure you click on "slide show" and "start from the beginning" so you can see all the effects which will easily walk you through the process.