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Staff Development: 25 Tools for Education

While Jane's E-Learning Pick of the Day is not purely about computer science education, I feel very strongly that good educational practices span disciplines and so it is one of the RSS feeds that Google reader automatically retrieves for me daily.

Jane recently blogged about a professional development program that she created, centered around her top 25 e-learning tools. I highly recommend going to the site and working through the activities for any of the tools you are unfamiliar with. Some of them, like Firefox, are things you probably already use, but Jane highlights some of the extra functionality of the browser as well as some useful extensions.

The tools are divided into categories including: Keep Yourself Up to Date, Manage Your Own Productivity, Set Up a Blog, Website and/or Wiki, Share Content with Others, Build Content and Share it with Others, Bring People Together, and Develop and Manage Courses.

To start a little discussion here please tell us what your favorite e-learning tool is (whether or not Jane agrees)? I use many of the things on her list and I think Google Reader has drastically improved my ability to find new and useful things as well as be aware of what is going on today in education. I used to have to go to 20-25 web pages first thing in the morning to see what the latest headlines were, who posted something new on blogs I read, and forget about trying to find new research as its published. Now with Google Reader, I go to one place and get EVERYTHING. It is separated by the feed (where it came from) so I can pick and choose what I want to read when I have time. It truly has changed the way I interact with the Internet on a daily basis.

No matter how small or how large leave a comment and share your favorite e-learning tool here.

Leigh Ann Sudol
CSTA Communications Chair


For me, MOODLE has been a great tool to use this school year. I have all my classes online and students get access to the calendar which lists all the assignments for the week and the resource links that I'll be using for the week as well.
Students can upload assignments to you and MOODLE will send you an e-mail telling you when the assignments was sent. Also, you get full reports of when students were online which is nice.

The tool that has made the biggest impact for me is Moodle. Moodle is course management software. It is clunky and has a significant learning curve, but it makes some tasks so easy. I use it primarily to post assignments and allow students to submit them electronically. As a computer science teacher, it doesn't make sense to receive paper work - I need to be able to run code to find out what it does! I used to have an electronic drop box, but students often forgot to put their names on their work. With Moodle, the student has a private space to submit, I know whose work is whose, they can leave me notes with the submission, and I can grade it and leave comments. My school doesn't use letter grades, but I can use check marks or rubric scores in Moodle.

Michelle Hutton
CSTA Vice President

My favorite tool is the Sympodium (http://www2.smarttech.com/st/en-US/Products/Interactive+Pen+Displays/). In the past, with the goal of providing interactive annotated program code for my students, I had participated in a tablet trial and was very disappointed. The tablet software permitted me to write, but not while displaying ?live? program code in its IDE. The Sympodium provides the ability to display program code in its IDE and then write on the code window in one of 4 colors. I can draw arrows or underline a statement(s) to help students focus on a specific section of code. I sometimes highlight a section of code and provide key concepts right next to the code. Should students be thinking of a multi-step process as the code is written? No problem. I can write that process as we write the code, writing a number next to the code line that matches the step. I often highlight the various occurrences of a variable so students can easily see the declaration, initialization, and other uses of that variable. In most software environments I can chose to print and save my commented work for my own purposes and for sharing with students. Feedback from the students has been excellent as they find it helpful to visually follow annotated code during a discussion.

The Sympodium sounds like a SmartBoard but it?s not. The Sympodium projects onto a large-size screen, projection size limited by the projector, and can be used in large rooms. It uses a stylus for writing. The SmartBoard typically works better in smaller environments. A stylus is not required.

So which tool should you use? The tool that fits!

"So this begs the question, Do I install a SmartBoard or a Sympodium? (Or I'll even throw in there - a Mimo) Well in this case, the purpose of the classroom is for Elementary Pre-service teachers. Elementary schools are not only more likely to have SmartBoards (or Interactive WhiteBoards of any kind) they are also more conducive to the Elementary style of teaching. While Sympodiums are very lecture centered and work very well in the high school and university halls. Mimio I see as the flexible interactive white board. Until we can all get SmartBoards in every classroom - Mimio's help bridge the gap and make ANY whiteboard an interactive one." (http://transparentlearning.blogspot.com/2008/02/interactive-whiteboards-aka-smartbaord.html, downloaded 4/2/2008).

The tool that has made the biggest impact on me this year is Angel Course Management Software. I had planned to use Moodle, but when I discovered that my county office of education was offering the software and server space for free I jumped at the opportunity. For my computer science classes, I have almost gone paperless. I post the written assignments each with a drop box for my students to upload their completed work. I also use the calendar feature so that each student knows when assignments and labs are due and when tests are scheduled.

The students participated in a video project a few weeks ago. I was able to set up a survey on Angel so that the students could rate each video. It also has a gradebook feature that allows me to post the grades. With the budget crunch in California, I have attempted to get more teachers on my campus to try it!

Google Reader is really not bad, but I think that SmartBoards, for example, are much better.

Nice Comment post.

I have used most of the tools posted above. In fact they have come in handy with my essay I had to do for my online high school course. I told all the other students I know there about this site so they could look into all the tools also.

Nice post. It is interesting to read and it is very useful for the readers Anyway, thank you for the information. I really appreciated your blog. I will check this out. Thank you and keep it up.

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