Keystone Commons

Keystone Commons is an interesting concept. Keystone Commons was created by PAIUnet to link the Intermediate Units in Pennsylvania along with other educational institutions. You can find more information about PAIUnet by visiting their website. The Keystone Commons is for educators AND students to use. In my humble opinion, it is Facebook, Twitter, and Ning all rolled up into one site for education. I understand some people are unfamiliar with those names, or may have heard of them, but that is it. That’s okay, I think that is why the site was created.

The purpose of the site is to create a monitored online space for communication and show students the responsible way to behave online. Kids use the sites mentioned above, often times in inappropriate ways. By blocking these sites in schools we tend to contribute to the problem by ignoring it. However the problem does not go away, nor does the inappropriate behavior. This site gives us the opportunity to teach how to use these tools in a positive fashion. In today’s world students need these skills, their future employers and many institutions of higher learning demand them.

Just a quick overview of the site, I will write in more detail as we experiment with it more in class. You can create a profile page, and add files and bookmarks to your profile much like Facebook. You can post messages in 140 characters or less just like Twitter. There is a place for groups to collaborate in groups just like other sites such as Ning. The groups may have open or closed membership requirements, it is up to the group organizers.

Users must create an account from a school computer, initial access can only be successful in this fashion. Once an account is created, users can access the Keystone Commons from any computer that has Internet access. The nice thing is that all members in the state can monitor the behavior of students on the site. If a student is acting inappropriately, you hit a button that says “Report This” and the activity is sent to the site administrators. I do not know what happens once you hit the button, because I have not had to do so yet.

I started a group for New Brighton Staff on the site, you can check it out by searching for NBASD Educators. If you would like to join and check things out please do so. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me and I will do my best to answer them.

iPods in the Classroom: Voice Recording

I bought a couple of styles of inexpensive microphones for the iPods Touches. I found several for around $10 on I paid $12.95 for a thumb tack microphone from, it works well, and is very affordable. I purchased a handful of Mini Microphones from two vendors. I paid $3.28, plus shipping for one Menotek mini microphone from It records with the approximately the same audio quality as the Thumb Tack Microphone. I then purchased five more from Elmenos for 12.45 total, plus shipping. The only issue was that shipping cost more than the product, about $14 and change for the order. The microphones plug into the earphone jack for use. Because of the plug in location, you cannot hear sound from the iPod while the microphones are plugged in. We will experiment with splitters to see if we can run earphones and the microphones and the same time, but that will be another post.

The programs we are using for recording are free in the iTunes Store. Evernote for iPods and iPhones allows for voice note recording. Audio files can be synced from an iPod to a users online Evernote account. Once online, you can pull the information to any computer the user has installed Evernote on. This is a nice little tool for my seniors, many of which will be heading off to college next year.

We are experimenting with another voice recording program for the iPod Touches, Quickvoice. We are currently using the free version which allows for users to record and send messages up to 2 MB in size via e-mail. Some of my students recorded notes for their Credit Project presentations and e-mailed them to themselves. We are hoping to find a way to drop the audio files into PowerPoint, iMovie, Windows MovieMaker, or Camtasia Studio to create a short video presentation. The students are currently working on this, and receiving bonus points for their effort. So far the students did not have any issue with file size. They have actually been overly cautious in breaking their audio files into smaller bits.

I purchased the pro version of Quickvoice for $1.05, including tax, to try for myself. This version allows you to sent 20 MB of information via e-mail. This version also allows you to send voice to text files via e-mail. I will be working with this app over break to become more familiar with how to utilize it in the classroom.

Standards Aligned System: The New PA Standards

I was in Hershey, PA this past week for a conference about the new Pennsylvania Educational Standards. The state closed down it’s EdHub site and opened a new site, Pennsylvania Department of Education Standards Aligned System. The new site will contain the new standards, most standards are on the site, but a few may not be on until later this week. They were transitioning over to the site last week.

The site gives you the ability to view the new standards, create your own web-site for free, access class materials and assessments, find resources for student interventions, upload materials into an e-portfolio, and view videos on how to use the site. You can create an account on the site, and once you do that access the “Teacher’s Tools” tab in the upper right hand corner of the screen and check out the site.

The site does pulls together many Web 2.0 tools that many people already use. It just keeps everything in one place versus using a variety of different sites. For people using Web 2.0 tools already, you may or may not want to utilize everything, possibly just the standards and assessment tools. The best practice lessons are a a good resource too. For teachers that do not use many or any Web 2.0 tools, this is a great place to start. The site is easy to navigate and you do not have to post anything publicly unless you would like to.

Check out the site, if for no other reason to see the new standards. I will be posting more about the site over the next few weeks, breaking down the resources in small sections. If you would like to learn more about the new system you can also check out the conference materials. They can be accessed on the SAS wiki.