Archive

Posts Tagged ‘education’

Student organisation with Notely

It’s fast approaching time to get back to school or college for most pupils and teachers. That generally means rushing everything in the last few days that has been put off under the false illusion that there’s “Plenty of time.” Thankfully, I’ve managed to get everything done. However, I’m always hunting for ways to improve my organisation to ensure that tasks get finished on time, and everything is neat and accessible. Notely aims to make everything easier for students by providing numerous useful tools.

The interface of the scheduling tool was impressive

The interface of the scheduling tool was impressive

Notely packs so many smashing features into one web-application that it’s difficult to know where to begin. After registering and logging in, you’ll be presented with your dashboard. This’ll be useful in future to see quickly what tasks need doing and what events are coming up.  Rather than just work my way through the entire sidebar in this article, I’ll pick out the main features in an order which makes some sense and couple them with comments and the usual babble.

Right-ho, let’s start with the ‘Courses’ section. This is one of the must fundamental features – each lesson taken can be added here; doing so allows future task and other such items to be placed in their right category. It’s a simple process to creating new courses, and each has extra information assigned to it, such as teacher and classroom. For some reason it’s compulsory to add those, which makes it a bit awkward for me since it’s not yet confirmed what teachers I’ll have, let alone the room numbers. It also doesn’t account for the fact that it’s likely that some students will be in different rooms at different times – especially if they have more than one teacher for a subject. However, simply placing a dash or other symbol in the teacher name and room number box is enough to fool the form into thinking that you’ve entered the information. A more minor feature is the ability to add a colour to represent your course. Unfortunately, the choices were very limited, which meant that I couldn’t have the same colours as the folders for each subject. A minor issue, but I’m sad enough to want the colours to be standardised.

Once you’ve added the names of your lessons, you’ll be able to categorise other information into them. One of the most important of these is likely to be the ‘Notes’ feature, and judging by the name of the website, it’s designed to be the key feature. The tools for creating a new note are more than sufficient – you’re given a text area featuring a number of different tools to allow you to format the text, add links, insert images, and other such jazz. I did wonder why Notely’s notes feature would be used in place of a document, since other software is more suited to taking more strenuous notes. They would lack the integration with Notely’s other features, but I’d still rather create notes in software that features more advanced features and will store it on my hard-drive. PDFs and RTF documents can be imported to Notely, but the ability to import other formats such as .DOC would be a welcome addition.

I’ve been trying to work out the difference between ‘Tasks’ and ‘To-dos’, but I haven’t quite been able to fathom it out. They both appear to serve the same purpose, but ‘Tasks’ appear to be more focused upon outlining specific projects which need to be completed, whilst ‘To-dos’ appear to be designed for more minor task – things like ‘Buy book’  or ‘Find pen’. As with any organisational application, the plan behind these is to enable you to keep track of tasks which need to be done, and to ensure that you’re handing them in or completing them in time. Notely’s offering is good, but I don’t think the interface and ease-of-use compares to Soshiku’s. However, the tight integration with Notely’s other features may be the factor which wins you over. Like Soshiku, each to-do note can have a due-date applied, but Notely also allows a time to be added, which allows for a little bit of extra prioritisation.

Complementing the to-do feature is the ‘Calendar’ item. This shows when each task is due, and therefore allows you to see more clearly when work needs to be completed by. Additional items can also be added directly to the calendar. Therefore it can serve the dual purpose of keeping track of your work, as well as scheduling more enjoyable plans. Something which I thought was especially smashing was the ability to view the calendar in weekly or daily mode; this meant that each day had hourly intervals underneath, allowing the events to be seen clearly. Whilst it doesn’t quite compete with applications specifically focused upon the calendar, it is a very useful addition to the suite of features. A minor qualm was that the calendar didn’t show the name of the day when in weekly or daily mode – opting instead to show only the date.

The ‘Links’ section is fairly self-explanatory. Links to useful websites can be added. Each contains a title, URL, and an optional description. This is a simple feature, but may prove to be useful for quickly accessing useful but obscure webpages or online applications. However, it would be nice to be able to categorise the links into the aforementioned courses which were created. A similar feature is the ability to upload files. Unlike the links, these can be organised, which means you’re able to create folders which contain sub-folders and files, allowing you to keep track of anything you choose to place there.

Notely's calendar is useful for seeing when tasks are due or events are occurring

Notely's calendar is useful for seeing when tasks are due or events are occurring

Another duty which I usually do over the summer holidays is typing out my timetable in a more friendly format. This includes colour coding and a cleaner design than the plain black-and-white which the dull photocopier provides. Undertaking this arduous quest usually involves poring over a meticulously perfected table in Word, this time I could use Notely’s ‘Schedule’ tool to create the coming year’s timetable. The rows span from the ungodly hour of 7am right up to 8.30pm. Whilst this is a benefit in that even those with very strange schooling hours will be able to use the feature, it means that I end up with a large number of wasted spaces. I’d therefore like to be able to specify which days and timespans to include on the timetable. Despite this, the interface is really rather smashing. The subjects which were created on the ‘Courses’ page are ready to be dragged to their correct places on the timetable, and they’re also accompanied by the more inviting ‘Free time’ and ‘Lunch/dinner’.

With regard to learning rather than just organising, Notely also provides features which allow for the creating of quizzes and mind-maps. Both of them seem to work fine, but lack the shine and polish of other alternative web applications which are designed specifically for those purposes. Bubbl.us is a good alternative for creating mind-maps, but once again you’ll lose the compatibility with the rest of Notely’s smashing features by using an alternative website.

There are also a number other features which are well worth a look, but I’ve now babbled for quite long enough and will therefore wrap this article up. Notely has proven itself to be very useful and full of features which promise to help students organise their busy schedules. You can sign up at www.notely.net.

Advertisements

Teacher’s Personal Information Manager

August 8, 2009 Leave a comment

This article is brought to you by our new author, Jennifer. If you’d like to contribute articles to Revnews, let us know here.

I am a teacher that enjoys being as organised as possible. I have a laptop on my desk find the Teacher’s Personal Information Manager (TPIM) invaluable. It provides weekly and daily planning sheets for each class you enter. It will also let you keep class lists with attendance register and grades. You can also make private notes about each student which could be incidents that need recording or just noting something smashing they did that lesson. There is a calendar feature which could be great for entering exam dates, parent teacher meetings, report deadlines, staff meetings, the list goes on.

a_one_week_plan

TPIM allows teachers to schedule their lessons in advance for quick access later

This will do pretty much everything you wish to do, if you enter your timetable and lesson timings then you can also choose to enable the feature that will pop up and remind you to issue the homework. Your students may not thank you but I’m sure the parents will.

I use the system to plan a term at a time but you can do it on a weekly or even daily basis as it suits. Then each morning I can print out a summary of my classes for each day. Your plans can either be a couple of sentences or detailed (starter, plenary, objectives, resources and all the timings involved). If you have to be out of school, either because of illness or on a training day, then this will produce a cover sheet, including class lists, seating plan, work to be done, homework etc. This can be done in a second rather than being at home ill and having to starting thinking what can be done. You can export your lesson plans for each class into a Word or Excel document very easily so you could print these or upload them to a class website. I know parents find them very good for making sure what has been set for homework or for a student to see what they’ve missed if they’ve been off school.

The product costs £40 (a one off fee) but the time saved and also the money saved on diaries etc more than makes up for this. However, a free trial which allows time for testing and making a decision about whether you will purchase the full version, is also available. I know all of us as teacher find time precious, and while this might take a little time to get used and set up to during the initial stages, future years are made simpler due to features software. I got it up and running in an afternoon but took longer to fully appreciate all it could do for me.

I really can’t recommend this product enough. The only limitation is the grade section which doesn’t really do as much as I’d like. If you are interested in a more comprehensive grades package then please read the upcoming review of Gradekeeper. TPIM is available from www.csfsoftware.co.uk/TPIM_info.htm.

Learn material with flashcards

August 3, 2009 1 comment

Love them or hate them, flashcards are useful for learning key vocabulary, concepts, or content. Whether you need to learn basic French or advanced political concepts, they’re helpful for cementing information in your mind. Writing them on bits of card or paper is all well and good, but like most things, there’s a computer equivalent which has the benefit of being easily accessible and editable, and far less likely to be lost or damaged. Both Anki and Quizlet provide online alternatives to risking damage to your dainty hands by using a pen and pair of scissors.

Customising some flashcards with Anki

Customising some flashcards with Anki

Anki is the downloadable software option, as opposed to Quizlet, which is housed online. Anki has a pretty large number of features, but this is also its downfall in some ways because it makes it confusing at times. It’s got a pretty advanced editing interface, but it’s not simple enough to create flashcards. Although the ability to add such things as sound or video clips, equations, and images to flashcards may prove very useful for learning or teaching concepts which go beyond text.

After creating a set of cards you can begin looking through them. Options appear after viewing each card which ask you how hard you found the card. Your answer to that will change how often the card comes back up. If you said you found it hard it will come back more often, whereas if you choose easy it will appear less often.

The software will also create graphs to show your progress and the amount of time you’ve spent on sets of cards. These seem awkward and clunky and of little use due to seeming like they’re going a bit over-the-top in trying to provide an in-depth analysis of your learning habits. Therefore the graphs looked out of place and confusing when I tried to get my feeble mind around them. There’s also an online section to Anki which allows you to view and edit your flashcards online, but this feature also seemed to be poorly implemented and awkward to use.

In addition the flashcard shown here, Quizlet also provides other ways to learn materials

In addition the flashcard shown here, Quizlet also provides other ways to learn materials

Quizlet, on the other hand, struck me as being a bit more smashing. Flashcards are simple and easy to use – text is displayed, followed by the answer when the button is clicked to reveal it. I think Quizlet should consider implement a similar system the one which Anki uses – being able to choose how often the card shows up would be  useful addition to prioritise your learning more efficiently. In addition to the basic flashcard feature that you’d expect, it’s also invents other ways for you to learn the items – including a test, and more interestingly, games. These are simple games which place the focus firmly upon the vocabulary rather than getting too caught up with creating masterpieces of Flash.

By far the most impressive feature of Quizlet is the ability to search through a plethora of sets of flashcards which other users have created. A search for just about anything will probably yield some cards which are related to the topic you want to study. When you create your own these are shared with other Quizlet users to help them with their learning. Whilst most public card sets can’t be edited by other people, you can use the ‘Reuse these terms’ feature to add the cards into your own deck which you can edit and add to. Another smashing little feature is the ability to export the cards as text. This could prove useful for printing out notes which you can read over when you’re doing revision or studying without the benefit of access to a computer.

Overall Quizlet seems like a much stronger contender, and I’d suggest it was a better option to Anki if you’re planning or learning using flashcards. You can access Quizlet from www.quizlet.com, and download Anki from www.ichi2.net/anki.

LiveMaths discount

Just a quick update to the LiveMaths article that I posted a little while ago. One of the administrators of the website was kind enough to provide a discount code which will get you a £5 discount off the usual price. Use the voucher code BPTR09 at the subscription page on www.livemaths.co.uk to take advantage of this offer.

I’m also informed that worksheets have now been added to supplement the video guides.

Online maths tutoring with LiveMaths

March 11, 2009 3 comments
Get a £5 discount on a LiveMaths subscription if you use the voucher code: BPTR09 at the subscription page.

I’ll freely admit that I’m not a fan of maths: numbers have never been my strong point. The lack of open-ended answers scare me: I’m more a fan of being able to babble on about a load of twaddle in the humanities subjects: English and History in particular . That’s the reason I do all I can to be less awful at maths in order to muddle through my examination. One of the ways I do this is using a dandy little website called ‘LiveMaths‘.

An example LiveMaths how-to tutorial.

An example LiveMaths how-to tutorial.

There’s plenty of revision websites out there, but this one is a little bit different: rather than just text, images, and maybe an occasional diagram, it has a video walking you through the steps to complete various different maths problems you’re likely to encounter if you’ve been unfortunate enough take GCSE Maths or foolish enough to take it for A-Level. It uses short but in-depth videos to make it clear how problems should be tackled in the exam.

You’ll find an incredibly wide range of topics, but if you are such an intrepid explorer that you find a missing topic, you can always contact the people who run it. Both of which are long-term secondary education maths teachers. I think my only suggestion for improvement would be for the site to also include webpages or worksheets with steps for solving the problem and sample questions for each topic which could be printed and used if one does not have access to a computer at the time. I must also say that the narration on the videos greatly resembles that of a robot programmed to patronise! The rates are pretty cheap: a GCSE subscription comes to the cost of about two private tutoring lessons. Have a look at the free samples to see if it’ll be helpful for you. Poddle off to www.livemaths.co.uk if you’re interested in a further browse or subscribing.