Handy classroom organisation tools

I was reading a post on Classroom 2.o the other day and came across a reference to two delightfully simple tools for classroom organisation.

Termites for creating seating plans and
Monkey, for creating productive groups

I have always wanted some tools for this purpose and had toyed around with Excel and just couldn't seem to get it right.

Termites allows you to input 'relationship' scores for your students. That is, if you think that they work well together you give them a score up to +10 and if you'd rather that they didn't sit together you'd give them a score as low as -10. The generator takes these values into account when allocating seats. If you have a student who has poor eyesight you can specify that they are placed at the front of the room. If you have a real firecracker you can even 'glue' them to the seat closest to you so that you can keep a wary eye on them and everyone else will be shuffled around them.

Creating the table layout is also blindingly simple. You are presented with a grid of whatever size you like. You then click on a box to make it a table and click on it again to clear it. Very easy to set up rows or pods.

Monkey works on the same principle of entering relationship values but also gives you the opportunity to input an 'ability' score from 0 to 100. You then have the opportunity to group according to ability as well as taking into account the relationships. Group size and number is customised in the same way as for Termites and so is 'glueing' a student into a group.

Try them out, they are as educational software should be. Easy, simple, created by an educator, useful and free!

It takes the hassle out of making new seating plans and you could choose to have a different plan ever week if you so desired with a press of the button.

Why you need a start page. Netvibes is my pick.

Start page, home page, whatever you like to call it, it is the the page that greets you when you start up your browser.

Many people leave it at he default, which for a school is usually the school website or learning platform. This isn't necessarily a bad place to start, but is it the best?

Many other people keep it simple and start off with the basic Google search as their starting place. Let me tell you: that is sooo 90's.

These days it is all about personalisation of information sources. Why go looking when you can make the information come to you? Customisation is the key. It enables you to make the information come to you.

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! all have customisable start pages in iGoogle, MSN and My Yahoo! iGoogle and My Yahoo! work pretty well and both allow you to add and remove different elements like search boxes, RSS feeds, calendars, games and widgets.
MSN is the most restrictive of the three allowing only basic changes to content.

I was a long time user of iGoogle and you can see my start page below:
Read this document on Scribd: iGoogle

You can see that I had customised it so that I was getting the latest news from New Scientist, Science Daily, Techcrunch and others and that my latest emails were also on hand. For fun I had a pregnancy countdown for my new baby-to-be.

If you look closely you can see the option to add more tabs which means that you can effectively customise any number of pages and have them close at hand.

However for the past few months I have moved over to using Netvibes, which along with Pageflakes, makes the customisable homepage more of a social experience. You can save and share tabs and even your whole 'universe' ie all of your tabs together. You can browse other peoples tabs and add them to your home page.

Here is mine below:

Read this document on Scribd: Netvibes

At first glance it looks the same as iGoogle. But here's why I like it better:
  • You can customise the number of columns
  • More colour options
  • You can fit more information in the same amount of space
  • The social side of it, browsing and sharing tabs
  • A huge gallery of widgets to choose from
  • French people made it, so of course it is magnifique!
Imagine using it with your students. You could make a tab with feeds and links to resources for a course or assignment to get them going in the right direction. Students could share tabs that they create with peers. As a minimum, students will be able to group all of their educational links on one page.

If you zoom in on the top left of my example you will see an RSS feed from the discussion forum of a Wetpaint wiki that my students are working on. I have a constant eyeball on what they are doing. My professional reading comes to me. I have all my science feeds and web2.0 feeds on hand.

I would be interested if there is anyone out there using Pageflakes who can let us know its benefits...