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Ahoy Mateys… Pirate Pad Off the Starboard Bow

There are many Websites out there which allow you to have friends or students post thoughts, ideas and questions on one page; however, it is often the case the site runs slow or has issues.   PiratePad seems to have overcome these difficulties and it is also a free resource.

When you get to the site, you will be greeted by a frog wearing an eye patch.  This page provides you with a quick hint on how to get the site to work better if you are having trouble viewing the page.  Click on the frog to continue.  As soon as you do, you are taken to a page with a Web address you can use.  You are able to immediately start typing onto the pad.

You can give your page a name or change the colors of the text. Don’t worry if you want different colors or other features on different lines.  As you type, each line is designated with a line number to make it easier for you to make changes.   There is a simple “pad options” icon to help you decide how you want your page to look like.

What is great about Pirate Pad is that you can share what you created right away.  So if you gave your students a homework assignment to perform on Pirate Pad, you can literally create the page when the school day ends and the students will be able to interact with it the moment they get home.  You are given choices on how to share the URL.  You can copy the link and create your own e-mail or text to send to people you want to invite to work on the pad. There is also a ready made welcome letter you can e-mail out to those who you want to participate.

This site makes it easy to distinguish who shared what thought.  As each person signs in and contributes to the page, they are assigned a different color.  Their comments as well as their name in the chat window share that color.  This makes it easy for you to scan and see which students have posted and/or participated in the chat discussion.  There is also a timeline you can utilize.  For example, If you require the students to participate three times a week, you are able to verify their number of times logging in with this feature very quickly.

Pirate Pad is a great tool to have your students brainstorm about ideas, discuss issues for debate, work on group projects, review the day’s lesson, etc.  If you have a large class, you might find it easier to assign 4-5 students to a group and have 6 or 7 groups to ensure you don’t run out of colors.

While Pirate Pad may not offer as many bells and whistles as other sites, it does offer many features to make it a valuable resource.  This can be a plus if you have students (or you yourself) are familiar with basic set ups similar to a Word document, but have difficulty with information intense sites.

So whether you are using the site for a lesson or gathering ideas for a friend’s surprise party, Pirate Pad may be just the tool you are looking for.


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Did they plagiarize or didn’t they, that is the question.

I have had teachers and parents approach me many times to inquire if their child plagiarized a part, or even all, of a paper or project.  While most students (and sadly many adults) do not see plagiarism as a real issue, it is a serious topic. 
The generally accepted definition of plagiarism is – “The use of someone’s words, thoughts or ideas without giving them credit.”  This means even if your child’s friend gives them permission to use their book report, it is still plagiarized if your child does not list their friend’s name as the creator of the book report.
Below are some free Web sites you can use to learn what plagiarism is, check students work for errors and to see if indeed there are any sections that have been plagiarized.
Google Alerts –
This is a good way to make sure students aren’t using work another teacher or student has written and placed on the web.  Go to the link and type in the words or phrase that concern you.  You will be notified by e-mail when the content you specified appears online.  It might not find all versions of the work, but it will find new instances if students are sharing them online.  This is also a nice site for you to monitor news events and other items you wish to stay updated about to share with your students.  You can type in phrases like “free technology for teachers” and be updated as items appear on the web.
Paper  Rater –
This site helps high school and college students to improve their writing.  The site performs basic spelling and grammar checks and also checks the students’ work for plagiarism.  After scanning the text, it estimates the likelihood the work was plagiarized.  Another site that can be used by students and teachers.
Plagiarism Checker –
Type or paste the text into the search box.  The site will then tell you if the work has been copied.  It also has handouts you can use to help students not to accidentally plagiarize and explanations of fair use.
Plagiarismdotorg –
This is the educational arm of iParadigm, the creator of commercial plagiarism detection software Turnitin.  This site can be used by students and teachers.  It has information on how to avoid plagiarism and when and how someone should cite a reference.  The site also has Webinars to help teachers instruct their students about plagiarism. 
Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) –
A place to learn about preventing plagiarism as well as having guides and exercises for lessons on: general writing, research and citation, subject specific writing, job search writing and English as a Second Language writing.   There is information for both students and teachers.

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Looking to create an interest spark? Why not try the site myBrainShark?

MyBrainShark is a wonderful, free site that works very well for e-learning situations and sharing of information.  It is a useful tool whether you are using it for work or personal projects.   You can create, share and track the number of views for a PowerPoint, document, video, photo album, Podcast that you have created PLUS you have the ability to create a voice over for each application.

Have you created a PowerPoint lesson you would like for your students to review when not in class, but also want them to have access to the audio parts of your lesson?  How about helping them analyze documents.  Did you want to create a Podcast?  Was there a video you created that you would like for the students to watch and respond to specific sections?  Did you want to show a series of Primary Sources and point out features for someone to investigate?  This page gives you the ability to add an audio voice over to any of the projects above as well as multiple other usages.  It allows you to combine multiple applications to create a multimedia presentation that will get the interest of your students or whomever you are trying to reach.  You can even use your cell phone to create the voice over.  No computer is necessary.

After you have finished your creation it can be shared by e-mail, posted on a Networking site or published on a specific Webpage.  This creates an ease of access for you to share information with people from different areas of your life.  

The first time you use it, there is a simple registration page that asks for a username and password creation.  Then you are ready to start uploading material you wish to present or create an audio soundtrack to accompany.  

If you are worried that certain animations in your PowerPoint won’t occur at the correct time, it’s no problem.  MyBrainShark recognizes the PowerPoint designation of the file and will allow you to choose when the animations take place.  

You can use the site to track how many views your posting has had.  You can even add a poll for your users to take to get personalized feedback on your presentation.

As with any new program, it may take a few tries of playing around on the site to become fully familiar with all the features.  Many of the features are similar to other programs you may already be using, which will make it easier to pick up quickly.

So whether you are looking to continue a classroom lesson, present information to students who may have been absent, share ideas and information with colleagues or just create a fun presentation with pictures and an accompanying stories from your vacation, give MyBrainShark a try.  It might be just the item you were looking for.


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You asked, I answered

For the past two years, I have forwarded links and information I thought might be helpful for you to use in the classroom or to bring a smile to your day :).  Some of you requested I create a centralized location to place these items so you didn’t have to worry about “losing” the e-mail or printout you made.

Voila – you asked, I answered :).

At least once a week, I will post something that could be beneficial for your research and education needs.  I will re-visit old topics and introduce new ones.  If there is an area you’d like for me to post about, just drop me a line and I will be glad too.

I hope you enjoy this blog, it is here for you. 🙂



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