Technology for Educators

June 25, 2010

Learning Student Names: An Excel Solution

Filed under: MS Office — Sue Frantz @ 10:17 am

A few years ago I started letting students send me their assignments electronically if they wished. I found that I was writing more on the papers I was grading electronically, and my typing was much more legible than my handwriting! A year or so ago, I made this a course requirement. All assignments now need to be sent electronically. I’ve written before in this blog about how I manage this; for those posts, type ‘grading’ in the search box.

As much as I’ve enjoyed going paperless, I’ve discovered an unintended consequence. I’m having a harder time learning students’ names. When I had paper to pass back, I got practice in learning names. Without that, I have to make a greater effort to use student names in class. For students who are vocal in class, I get much practice calling on them. For the quiet students, it’s much harder.

It’s technology that’s caused this problem, so I turn to technology to get me out. For a pittance of extra credit, students email me photos of themselves. I keep my grades in an Excel spreadsheet, and using the ‘comments’ feature, I mouse over a student’s name to get a pop-up of that student’s photo. Because you can’t just add a photo to a comment, you have to do a little work-around. Essentially, you fill the background of the comment with the photo. See this article for an excellent step-by-step explanation of how to do it.

June 2, 2010

Whiteboard Markers: AusPen

Filed under: Presentations — Sue Frantz @ 7:38 am

On one of the teaching listservs I’m subscribed to, participants were having their periodic row over using PowerPoint versus not using PowerPoint. But this time, rather than simply defending themselves, the PowerPoint users went on the attack noting that using the whiteboard was not exactly the idyllic world the non-PowerPoint users were making it out to be. Whiteboard markers, they argued, were often dried up, and colors other than black weren’t bright enough to see. Throwing away all that plastic is bad for the environment. And they stink! Literally.

While I enjoy my pixels, I’m not opposed to writing on a whiteboard. In fact, sometimes it’s exactly what the situation calls for.

I knew that there were low-odor whiteboard markers, but I wondered if anyone had gotten around to making refillable ones. A quick internet search turned up AusPen, an Australian company that makes no-odor, refillable whiteboard markers.

I promptly ordered a set. AusPen will ship anywhere except Canada or the U.S. For those of us who occupy all but the most southern section of North America, we can order from EcosmartWorld.

I chose the “Starter Kit.” Six markers, six refill bottles, and a little orange wrench come in this handy carrying case. If you’d like to forego the kit, you can order markers in packs of 6 or 12. Ink, or course, can also be ordered separately.

(Images courtesy of EcosmartWorld)

The markers are aluminum, so you feel like you’re holding something that’s going to last. The refill process is easy. Unscrew the marker and unscrew the ink bottle cap; if either is a little too tight for you, use the enclosed wrench. Squeeze 10 to 12 drops of ink into the marker. Screw the marker back together and replace the cap on the ink bottle. You’re back in business.

We have a locked cabinet in our classroom, so we just keep the set in there. With the carrying case, there are no worries about individual markers going missing. When you put them back in the case, you can see that a marker has been left out. That means you probably won’t have any uncapped markers lying around. If you do manage to leave a marker uncapped, AusPen assures us that it won’t dry out for another 72 hours.

The markers truly have no odor; they’re xylene-free. EcosmartWorld says the markers are “low, low odor” but my nose can’t pick up anything at all.

You have a nib choice: Bullet or chisel. The nibs are also replaceable so don’t feel like you’re making a permanent decision.

How do the markers work in the classroom?

I was really pleased with the brightness of the colors. With other markers, I found non-black colors tough to see. That’s not the case with these markers. Here’s a photo I took in my classroom. I don’t think the photo quite does these markers justice, but you get the idea. (The AusPen kit is bottom center; it gives you a sense of the size of the box.)

Cost-benefit analysis.

Office Depot sells a box of 12 low-odor Expo markers for $14.99. That’s $1.23/marker.

AusPen says each refill bottle holds ink equivalent to 40 regular whiteboard markers. With the starter kit, you get 6 filled markers plus 240 refills (6 bottles, 40 refills each), for a total of 246 markers. The kit is $69.95, so that’s $.29/marker – including the carrying case. Ink refills, when purchased separately, are $7.95, making each marker refill $.20.

Any way you do the math, refillable markers are less expensive.

Try them out.

I haven’t found an administrator yet who wasn’t interested in saving money. If you try them out, I’d love to hear what you thought of them!

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