Tuesday, October 30, 2012

CLEAR RIA tools: The Audio Dropbox

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the CLEAR (MSU language research center) has developed a plethora of tools to use for the language classroom as well as for teacher who need students to do interactive learning.  I don't think a language or ESL teacher are the only ones who would benefit from the services.

I decided I would start your journey with these tools with the easiest one to use: the Audio Dropbox.  I have used the Audio Dropbox for about three years now.  I embedded it into all of my websites and also into edmodo. (Yes, it can be embedded into your edmodo library and used over and over again!)

The dropbox is simple to use.  You start off creating an account at the CLEAR RIA website once you do that, you are asked to jump to a page. Where you see some places to make folders or dropboxes. I made one dropbox per class so I don't have to constantly embed different dropboxes, but if you wanted to, you could set it up for each class and have specific boxes for each chapter or each project.  It is really dependent on what you are planning to do.

I assign the kids various speaking activities and they record them directly into the dropbox.  I log into my account and grade them.  I notate into a rubric and send it directly to the kids.  It's a great way to share their grades with them as well as tell them the things they are stuggling with.  After the nine weeks ends, I delete the files and start over again.

I do have a few recommendations.  Embed the link into edmodo or the edmodo library. If you put it on a website, kids get confused about the different dropboxes and accidentally record into the wrong one.

One great thing about the CLEAR RIA, you do have a documentation sheet with each site that explains how it works and how to use it. Take a little time and check this site out. It's really easy to use and can do a lot for your classroom.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Using CLEAR RIA tools Part One

As a foreign language teacher, I am often introduced to tools and techniques at conferences that are not normally shared with teachers outside of the foreign language realm.  Some of the tools available are really fantastic for the language teacher, but, those outside the language box can also benefit from the tools.  Michigan State University's CLEAR (Center for Language Education and Research) is one such place.  CLEAR has a large assortment of what they cal RIA tools which are awesome ways to have students complete oral and video tasks.  I am going to take the next few blog posts to talk about the tools I use in my classroom and some of the advantages of them.  Check out the site, especially if you teach classes that require students to interact, respond and do speaking or video tasks.  The site also allows you to link to YouTube, TeacherTube and SchoolTube videos or upload your own.  They can be modified to meet your needs in the classroom.

The first thing to do, is take a look at the CLEAR site and look at some of the options available.   The site to check, is the RIA site.  These are Rich Internet Activities.  I use them at least twice a week, especially the audio dropbox.  The tools can be embedded into a website, including Edmodo.

There are also webinars and white papers.  Some of them are not for everyone, a majority are geared primarily for the language teacher, but something there might be of interest to a different content area. There are assessment tools, a quiz break, just to name a few.  Look around the site, I will be posting about some of the cool RIA tools in the next few posts.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tubechop, the time saver

Have you had one of those lessons where you had a fifteen minute YouTube video and only needed a small, three minute clip to share?

I have been introduced to a cool site that quickly chops your video and lets you share it with students.  (I think it will be effective for those videos where the psychos are trying to insert inappropriate things into educational videos.) 

Here's how it works:  Find the YouTube video you intend to share with the kids. (Don't forget to check for creative commons and sharing rights), go to the tubechop website and insert the link to the video you want to clip. Press search, the video shows up and you select the parts you want.  Click the chop button and you see a series of links, and methods to share.  It's that simple. 

I have found a lot of great videos to use in my classroom but often I don't show them because I hate buffering, searching and waiting. With this, I just clip the part I want and voilà the video is ready to go.  I can share it via social media, embed it into my website or add it to Edmodo.  The kids can watch the clip several times if they need to, which is good for some kids.

Check tubechop out.  It is easy to use and makes some of the things we need done get done faster. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

A first nine weeks overview

Believe it or not, the first nine weeks of the school year has come to a close.  It's one of the fastest I have experienced, but, it has also taught me a few lessons along the way. First of all, it is a very real possibility to offer coursework in a different, real world way using technology.  Secondly, it is also a possibility to teach a class with technology and do so effectively.  Finally, it is possible to flip back to the old way when things aren't going right the new way.

I spent several days collaborating with my students this nine weeks, generating ideas, potential assessment solutions and getting kids excited about doing things differently.  For the first time in years, I set my students up with epals.  They ask daily if we have received mail.  They are excited to talk to kids in France and are I am excited because they are taking their language skills and making them stronger through collaboration and interaction. They are expected to write in French and their new friends in English.  The cultural differences alone are making kids realize students abroad have as much trouble learning a foreign language as they do.

I also spent time talking to kids about ways to learn better. I found through that discussion that providing a standard written assessment isn't going to always be the best way to see what they know.  Guess what! I changed my ways.  Yes, the kids still took a short vocabulary test but, I used a Voicethread for their unit test and asked them different things to discuss and handle.  My older kids actually took what they know and created a story which they read aloud. I hit so many standards with these lessons, it was amazing!

I also discovered something I already knew- teaching a class with technology CAN be done.  I stopped using paper last year, and I am again on the same track.  I use web 2.0 tools to help my kids get better.  We do quizlet reviews, epals, simple meet meetings and are looking into doing some mini oral collaborations through some different sites I have used for audio recordings.  (I am thinking they are mashups.)  I can ask the questions, kids do the answers.  I use a simple rubric to grade them.  I have no longer used paper for tests, I started using google docs for the short vocab quizzes.  Flubaroo grades it all.  I don't spend hours grading papers anymore.  I do it fast now.  Kids get results the same day.

Finally, the jump back to old ways.  I hate to even talk about this, but, the old way sometimes works just as well, especially when the technology isn't cooperating.  It's OK sometimes to grab a textbook and pull speaking and vocabulary review from them.  I have to remind myself that being a 21st century teacher and learner, I have to be able to think about what is best for the kids.  Sometimes, it may be spending a day looking at a book or using the book's listening and workbook activities is OK.  Sometimes kids need that skill.

All in all, the fastest nine weeks on history has been a learning experience for me as much as for my kids.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How Quizlet is helping my students

So, are you a classroom teacher with a content area that requires a lot of vocabulary? Looking for a way to get your kids to review and be a little more successful with their information?  Take a look at this:  Quizlet

Last school year, one of my French one kids came in and said "Mrs. Wells, I have found this awesome site and it helped me study for the test we took today." (She had the highest score, by the way.)  So, I plugged her laptop into my projector and showed it to everyone.  I was hooked. 

Quizlet is a flashcard/ game/ testing/ review site where kids and teachers and go and study ANYTHING, yes, ANYTHING.  It even has obscure foreign languages on it.  I am using it a lot with my students, especially my French one kids.  I am requiring them to use it in class as a review for unit tests, quizzes and vocabulary assignments.   I have been fortunate enough to not re-invent the wheel.  Someone else already inserted the necessary cards for my textbooks so I just copied them to my account and shared them with my kids.

I like Quizlet because it is really user-friendly and it offers lots of different options for the kids.  It offers a visual version of a word as well as an audio version.  It hits a lot of the senses.  It also has the option of uploading an image for each word. (That could easily be a summer project) Or, have the kids work on that.  I was thinking if all of my students made a quizlet account, they could each make a set of cards and add the images to them and we share them.  Saves a lot of time for the teacher, but, helps the kids learn even more.

After the students review the flashcards, they can then play a few matching games and do a quiz/ test.  I even had my students take the test before the actual written component of a unit test to see how they did.  It truly could help students assess their learning and decide what components on which they need to spend more time.

I recommend looking at the site.  There are so many ways kids can review.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Socrative offers several neat tools

Last summer, my district had an in-service where a tech trainer came in and talked to us about polling tools.   While we were looking at them, he mentioned that he had seen a tool called Socrative but had not checked into it much so he didn't know much about it.  So, I took it to myself to check into the program and investigate it.  I really am happy with what I discovered.

To be honest, I sampled it just last week with my French two class.   I wanted to give them a test and I wanted to do it in a different way. I was pleasantly surprised by how simple to platform is.  There is a template to download into an Excel file where I can edit my exam/ quiz.  I just upload it right to the program and when the kids are ready, I send out the quiz.  There are instant results on every question and you can download a final file that details each students response and its accuracy.

Socrative is easy to use.  You create an account, are given a room code and have the kids log in with that code.  Once in, you force the test to them.  It takes their responses and gives instant feedback to both them and you.  You can leave a screen up and see the results so you know if you need to stop and do some Q/A.  I think there is a lot of potential, especially as an exit slip, a quick warmup, a review game, or even as a method of post lesson evaluation.  I think I am going to try some more things with it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Voicethread: FL outside of the box

I introduced my French three and four students to Voicethread last week.  In case you are unfamiliar, a voicethread is a visual/ audio slideshow.  You insert media and tag it with comments or audio clips.  It can be shared and edited and modified by others.  It is a fantastic way to present an oral presentation, especially if the students are a little nervous about talking in public.

We decided to do a different sort of speaking activity.  The girls made a story on their threads and placed images relating to their piece and recorded themselves talking.  They are having a lot of fun doing the project and it's something different.  I started brainstorming some other potential ideas.

My French One class is lacking in speaking activities.  They tend to be the same ole same ole, so I decided their oral exam for the unit would be in the form of a voicethread.  They inserted images of family members and started telling me all about them.  They shared their pieces with me and I was able to go in and edit or comment back.  I can even ask them questions!  What a great way to be interactive with them.

We also have new penpals from France.  The kids are going to do some sort of presentation to their new friends with a voicethread and their friends will be able to comment back to them.  My intent is to make a fantastic interactive interview. 

What about those History teachers out there?  Students could use a voicethread to make an interactive oral history report.  Voicethread allows a phone call to record the information.  Why not have students assemble the threads and then call in the interview?  Perfect way to learn about history.

I am certainly going to do more interactive projects and toss in Voicethreads from time to time.  My kids will enjoy something different and I will also benefit from a different format of assessment and review. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

It's a tough time flipping a class

Back in July I announced to my readers that I was flipping my class. Sorry to say but time is not on my side to do this. I started placing files per chapter into a one note document that I shared with my class but I came across some downfalls. First of all, Microsoft only allows a certain number of people to create a skydive account with the same IP address. This makes account creation an absolute nightmare when a portion of the class lives in an Internet free environment. Yes I have kids without Internet access! In one class alone four of the 12 have no Internet. Mostly because the only options are very slow dial-up.

I tried having a few a day set up accounts but it interfered with class time so I had to quit. I was able to integrate some components of flipping into my lessons and now that I know the steps to take and how much time is involved I will spend my summer next year developing a program that allows me to flip a class.

I know some have had great success with the flip. In fact, a colleague of nine did it last year and said she would never go back. She spent her prep time taping the training videos. I have been so busy during my prep I am lucky to grade! (I teach French and run the library so my time is spent working with kids and tech.)

I think my future in flipping the class could happen but it is going to take some downtime from being a librarian to do it. For now, I will stick with edmodo and posting notes and lessons online as we do them for later reference. That is the best I can do in the flip.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Livebinders for organizing

I am sure by now, many of you have heard of a Livebinder.  In fact, they have been around for awhile, but I think it is good to go back to things and look at how they are used and come up with some potential ideas.  I have to be honest, I have come across a few fantastic shelves that I have copied into my own as a time saver, which I think is a wonderful plus of Livebinders. 

Some background information for those of you unfamiliar, a Livebinder is a site where you can tag links and images into a specific binder to use in a class setting, to use as a method of organizing or to use for various chapters in your book. I use it to keep track of links my students can refer to for a paper, a project or other research.  I also have one that I keep private where I keep some of my library things I am working on, particularly my series binder and my library vision.   There are thousands of livebinders to search through, and what is awesome about them is the fact that you can save them to your own shelf for later reference.  I found the entire book I use in French 1 as a binder someone made.  It had links, videos and articles for every chapter.  Why make a new one if someone has one like it?  Collaboration at its best! 

I went to EdcampIndy back in June and one of the organizers assembled the entire day into a livebinder. It is still a work in progress, but there are a lot of opportunities using it.

Here are ways I can use it in my class:
1) Have students organize chapter by chapter links as we cover materials in class.  They can also insert videos at home for later reference.

2) Flipping a class.  You could assemble all of your links, articles and tasks for flipping a class.  Each chapter could be inserted into a binder on a shelf.

3) Book Clubs:  Have a binder for each book you are reading and assemble everything together.  (It could work for guided reading as well.) There could be links inserted to chat areas where conversations can happen.  You could even put clips of things for the books (bulletin boards, images, etc.)

4) Staff organization.  If you are a supervisor, (ie: Head librarian, administrator, etc.) Couldn't you use a livebinder to assemble a staff manual and documents staff could access.  Why print hundreds of pages and put in a paper binder, when a Livebinder is there.

5) Research projects: If your students are doing some PBL, you can assemble all of the criteria, expectations and links into a livebinder. It keeps kids in one place and not going all over the internet getting into things they ought not be getting into.

Whatever your plans, I am certain you can find something to do with Livebinders.