Wednesday, August 31, 2011

QR Codes: What are they and are they useful to me?

QR codes are something that most of us have seen, but may not have used. They look like the image to the left and if you scan them with your smartphone they link you to information (This one goes to my Twitter page).

What Are QR Codes?
In short, QR codes are images that can be scanned using the camera on a smartphone through a QR code scanner app. Multiple apps are available for every smartphone (just search your app store for "QR Code"). Once you scan one of these codes, they take you to designated information. It may be a website that appears, a business card, or even a phone number with a link to add the person as a contact on your phone.

A variation of a QR code is  Microsoft Tag. These can be colorful and even have images on them (see example to the right). They do basically the same thing as the QR code but are a little more versatile. You do typically need to have a different app on your phone to scan these codes and you will usually find a link to that app with the code you want to scan.

How Are QR Codes or Microsoft Tags Useful to Me?
As an educator you may want to put your QR code or MS Tag on a newsletter you send home. It could link to more information on your website, or to "Like" your Facebook page (see QR code at the end of this post). You might put one on your email signature that links to your website. You can have as many QR codes as you want that link to all different things! How fun is that??

How Do I Get One?
Go to a site like this QR Code Generator. What I like about this one is that you can pick from a list of the many different choices your code can link to(Plain Text, Website, Phone Number, Email Address, Facebook Like & more). Just pick the information type, enter it, and download your QR code image to use wherever you would like. Notice that the less info or shorter url that you put into your QR code, the simpler the code looks, and the faster it will scan.

To create a Microsoft Tag a little more work is involved but it's still simple, plus you will be able to download any tag in the future because it's connected to your account. Go to this page and click to create a tag. You will have to sign in with a Windows Live ID, then you can go from there.

Try it Out & Have Fun!
Instructional Technology
on Facebook!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Virtual Math Manipulatives

The start of school means fishing out your teaching supplies and often math manipulatives to help bring the *something shiny* into your lessons. Maybe you can't find all of your base ten blocks, or your play money, or those super nifty fraction pieces. Have no fear...the web is here =)

There are many sites that offer free online math manipulatives in SO MANY formats. Below you'll find a list of resources for math manipulatives and activities. I'm highlighting the ones I know and love, but please add your own if I missed something fantastic!

Illuminations: Resources for Teaching Math -
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has a fantastic site that offers MANY resources. To get to the activity resources, click on the Activities link from the main page. You can then search by a grade range or select all grades to search. The resources here are numerous and display quite large on your screen.

Some of my favs are: Equivalent Fractions, Grouping and Grazing (for counting, addition & subtraction)

eManipulatives - 
This is a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt site that has math emanipulatives sorted by grade level. Follow the steps below.
  1. Go to 
  2. Select your grade level (Or just go to 5th grade as it seems to have all of the manipulatives listed =)
  3. Click the link for eManipulatives
  4. Pick from the list of available manipulatives.
Some of my favs are:  Coins and Bills, Base Ten Blocks, and Number Lines

National Library of Virtual Manipulatives
I really like the setup of this site that is published by Utah State University. On the main page you will see a grid sorted by skills and grade level, just click the cell you want to get started! 

Some of my favs are: Color Patterns, Bar Chart
 Math Playground: Math Manipulatives -
This site contains some great manipulatives and models for math. From the link above you will get to the main page that contains all of the math manipulatives available on this site. I really like that there are preview pics of the tools so that you can easily see if it's along the lines of what you're looking for. Just click the one you want to use to get started.

Some of my favs are: Fraction Scale & Math Bars

Friday, August 19, 2011

Let's Get it Started

I think I've been right along with everyone else in the craziness of this week. We had a wonderful convocation with an inspiring speaker, Mark Sharenbroich (see his story and more info at and I know since then we've all been running full pace getting things ready and re-evaluating what we can do differently and improve upon. On the note of getting things our district we all came back to a wonderful addition on our computers, Microsoft Office 2010 (a special thank you is deserved to all of the technicians that worked hard through the summer to get this done). The application I'm going to give you steps for today is Microsoft Outlook 2010. This is a great way to streamline efficiency in your email program and much faster than accessing email through going to the website. It takes about a minute (yes I'm serious, one minute) to setup and it's super duper easy, so let's get started...

  1. Open Outlook 2010 (Go to Start > Programs > Office 2010 > Outlook 2010) 
  2. Click Next
  3. On the window that asks “Would you like to configure an Email account?  Select Yes and then Next
  4. Enter your account information for your Live Email.
    1. Make sure that you enter your complete email address. 
    2. Click Next 
  5. You will see Outlook process your account information, this should go pretty quickly. 
  6. If you see a window prompting you for your password, enter your Windows Live sign-in information.
    1. You will probably want to click for it to “Remember my password” but if you do this, just make sure you are on your personal or teacher dedicated computer, and that if you step away from your computer you lock it (Ctrl + Alt + Delete, Lock this Computer). 
  7. Next you should see a window that says “Your email account is successfully configured."  Click Finish. 
  8. When you are prompted with “Would you like to add a Hotmail Account?” Select No.
  9. Select to “Use Recommended Settings” and click OK.