"If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow." --John Dewey

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Prepare for a Happy Class

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Yes, I know it's too soon to think about making your seating charts for the next school year.  After all, it will probably be weeks before many of us see our class lists.  But, it's not too soon to think about how you'll make your seating charts for next year, is it?

Invariably, the beginning of every school year brings with it many time consuming chores, one of which is designing and completing seating charts.  Now while the average Joe may think this is not such a big deal, those of us who face the task several times each year know all too well that it requires a lot more thought and effort than seems evident.  Many a pencil eraser has given its life trying to get the right student in the right seat, and while a lot of us have taken to seeking digital assistance, the perfect seating chart maker is still difficult to locate.  I have found one that works well for me, though, and while I immediately see that it's not going to be the perfect choice for every teacher, I'd like to share some info with you in case you'd like to give it a try as well.

Pin • Front • Back
Close to • Away from • Erase
Happy Class (http://happyclassapp.com/) is a website that will allow you to quickly and easily create and edit seating charts for your classroom(s).  The process is quite easy.  Create a room by clicking to add as many seats as you need.  Add student names by typing or pasting (I haven't found a way to upload a list--don't think you can at this point), and the program will randomly place students in seats.  Here's where it gets fun.  Click on any student's name and see a diagram like the one to the right.  This will allow you to:  • pin the student in place • move to the front of the room • move to the back of the room • position closely to a good partner • position away from a potential problem partner or • erase a previous partnership.  Don't have it quite right?  Use the refresh button to generate a new arrangement based on your selection for each student.  The site will even generate a "happy factor" so you can see how close you are to having a workable arrangement.

One of the reasons this program works well for me is that my classroom (computer lab) has a fairly standard seating arrangement that really doesn't change.  Seats are in straight rows, facing the front of the room--easy to set up at the Happy Class site.  There doesn't seem to be a way to create any other arrangement at the site yet, but since it is still in beta, that may be a feature that's still in the works.  And, again because it's in beta, you will need to request an invite in order to create your account and get to work.

What do you think?  Does this sound like a winner for you?  Do you know of a better, free seating chart generator?  There are certainly other options (superteachertools.com comes to mind).  Do you have a favorite?  Please let me know.  Wouldn't it be nice to provide seating chart resources to teachers as soon as they get a look at those new class lists?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Use SumoPaint for Picture Perfect Summer Fun

Okay, so maybe you're not able to travel this summer--not everybody can.  But, each of you can make it look like you've had wonderful adventures worthy of the envy of your friends and relatives through the magic of photo editing.

PhotoShop, of course, is a wonderful, well-known photo editing program, but for those of us who don't have access to the pricey program there is an economical alternative that can give equally remarkable results.  Create a free account at sumopaint.com, and you can begin creating superimposed photos that look amazingly realistic, and will help you create the illusion of world travels or epic adventures.

Once you click on the Start Drawing button you will be directed to your canvas and tool palette.  There's much to explore, with lots of drawing and shape tools with which you can easily create some amazing works of art.  Just as with Photo Shop, you can create your artwork in layers, and add effects using the Layer and Filters menus.

Under the File menu you'll find Import to Layer.  This command will allow you to import photos that you have saved to your computer, or from a web URL.  So, go ahead.  Import a photo of the Taj Mahal, for example, and then import a photo of yourself or your family into a new layer.  Now use the lasso tool to carefully trace around your outline, go to Select and choose Inverse.  Now use the Edit menu to Cut away anything that was in the picture with you, and suddenly you are in Agra!  Yes, using the lasso tool takes some practice, and a lot of patience, but I assure you the results you get are well worth the time and effort.  What's that you say?  The proportions aren't quite right?  Adjust your size using the Free Transform tool.

When you are finished working, you can use the Save button to store your work on the SumoPaint site, or go to File and Save to My Computer if you're using the site without having created an account (I usually have my students use this option).  If yours is a work still in progress, be sure to save your art as a .sumo file to maintain the layers you created.  Saving as a .jpg or .png file will merge the layers into a single picture file.  If you save to the Sumo Paint site, notice that one of your options is to Publish to Facebook.  Isn't that the perfect way to keep your friends up to date on your global getaways?!  Happy travels, everyone!