Friday, June 28, 2013

Alternatives to PowerPoint pt. 4

As you have seen, my focus of late has been PowerPoint alternatives and ways to do similar or better things for free.  A few weeks back, I did a post about a site called Thinglink that I think fits this topic perfectly.  I decided to again write about it and offer some potential ideas, mainly because I attended a conference last week and the Thinglink chat was all the rage.  I saw teachers and students using it in action and that, to me was a home run.

Thinglink, as we talked about before, allows a visual object to become ultra dimensional.  It allows for embedded text, links, and video.  Teachers have been using it as an alternative to PowerPoint.  In one class I visited, the teacher had kids research a topic related to the era in the novel they were reading.  Each student had to be responsible for finding and linking the information to the visual.  Because it has direct links, embedded tools, etc, the actual citation information is also included right into the document.  Yes, it makes MLA not really the citation tool of choice, but, it is requiring kids to use critical thinking and research skills to find the best information for their topic.

I am going to use it as a tool in my French class this year.  Each student will be assigned a specific vocabulary topic and will be required to create a thinglink that has the words somehow included.  I am guessing they can even embed audio!  I am so excited to play around with this tool.  I think the kids will appreciate something different than the norm for a project, as well.

Here are a few ideas I saw for using thinglink:
1) Research of a topic in class and use the thinglink to expand the information.
2) Vocabulary thinglinks.
3) Student centered flip: Have the students develop some of the lesson and use a thinglink to present it to the class.
4) US Geography (Or any continent, country, etc.).  Assign students (lower grades) a state and have them use a thinglink to map out whatever they can about it. Older kids can get a nation and go through it's historical changes, or take a continent and identify the different places, how they have changed, etc.
5) Battleground activity: Select a war, identify a battle site (Bighorn, Gettyburg, etc) and have the students create a thinglink that covers the topic.

The list can go on and on....

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Heading to ALA

Saturday morning, I get to board the south shoreline train and head to the windy city for my first ever ALA conference.  I am nervous but excited.  Looking at the conference guide is so overwhelming but I am determined to find some great things to take back to my students and teachers.  Just hope I don't overtweet like I did at the last conference I attended.  My hubby threatened to unfollow me. (Wait, he may have!) Take care folks...  Hope to blog a little after I get back with some great ideas I gathered.

I am going to be attending and tweeting at ALA2013.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Alternatives to PowerPoint pt. 3

I have been spending a little time talking about other options teachers can use to replace PowerPoint.  Sometimes, students can't afford the software and other times, finding something new makes the classroom have a different feel.

I am all for options.  I feel allowing kids to choose which project platform they want makes the student have more ownership of the project.  If they can choose some of the final outcome, they often spend more time and fare better in the long run. I want to talk today about a platform many already know: Prezi.

Prezi is a great free tool to use in place of a PowerPoint.  Kids often like it, they like the animation, the ability to embed video and text and the way the final presentation comes out.  Prezi is easy and it looks clean and professional so the final outcome can be very well presented.

Students can share the link of the final project with their teacher.  I like the different forms of thngs that can be embedded as well.  Students can make a very outstanding presentation with prezi.  Using it from time to time instead of a PowerPoint makes it a change of pace.  Offering as an option for students to use also makes it a great tool.

As I said before, I am all for options.   If a teacher requires students to do a presentation but offers a list of tools, students will find the one they like the best and the one that works best for them.  It offers a change for the kids and the teacher.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Alternatives to PowerPoint pt. 2

My last post was a delve into some options to replace PowerPoint, because as I learned from my twitter via RT and MT, a lot of kids can't afford it and don't have it so expecting them to use it for a project is almost ridiculous.   I am going to look at a few more options, today, we are going to look at weebly.

Weebly isn't really a presentation site, it is more of a website, but now a days, who says a website can't be used to present a specific topic to an audience?  I attended a conference where a school is doing just that: Requiring weebly as the platform and having students add their content to a website platform. In the end, they have a digital portfolio that incorporates all of their projects to show off at an end of school term project. And, it's FREE!

Weebly is very easy to use.  When you log in, (you can link to Facebook or start from scratch) you can choose a purpose (education, and then decide the rationale).  Here, you can require students to choose project.  There is a simple tutorial to follow that goes step by step through the ease of use process.   One can add all sorts of media, text and graphics. Developing a layout is easy as well.

To use it with students offers a lot of options, I think.  It would be a great opportinuty to require students to do a project for Social Studies, English and Science.  It could also be dropped into other content areas where teachers have to hit a presentation/ writing standard but are a little uncertain about what to do.  This is an easy platform for kids to learn and it is a smart tool to use to make quick or complex presentations.   Students will catch on fast and be able to get very creative with their final outcome. 

One thing I like is the digital portfolio concept.  Once you have a site, you can keep making pages.  Each page could be a different project.   Like most projects, don't overdo it.  Vary what you do or kids will get bored and not want to stick with it. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Alternatives to PowerPoint Part 1

Let's face it, PowerPoint is a very popular presentation platform used by many in the education spectrum, but, it's expensive.  The educational Office suite is over $150 (if you are lucky) and even the most basic version is going to cost you. Why not look at other alternatives.  Sites from the web that do similar things but are just a little different so the outcome changes.

One tool located on the web that does similar things to PowerPoint but is free to use is edcanvas.  Edcanvas offers a lot of sidebar tools to access for research.   It's easy and fund to use for kids and you.  The beauty, after the project is complete, you can add a quiz!  It allows for student accounts where you as the teacher can add students and see all of the boards the kids have made.  It also allows for a built in citation as all links are saved within the canvas.

I saw a presentation about it where both kids were using it to create PBL projects and teachers were using it to create their flipped notes.   Imagine, flipping a class in one tool.   Create a canvas, insert the necessary components you want to use for the lesson and have students follow through all the parts. Voila, end with a quiz. It's be best of the flipped class world!

Here are some ideas for student based projects:

  1. Create a project about a vocabulary word.  Each student develops a canvas about a specific vocab word from the text being read and then they are saved in one teacher account, accessible to all classmates.  Easy study tool.
  2. Create a presentation about a specific point in history.  Each student, instead of doing a long paper or a PowerPoint can create a edcanvas board about their topic.  Within it, they can embed images, text, videos and more.  (And it's FASTER than using PowerPoint).
  3. Virtual Trip:  Each student is expected to make a canvas and insert facts on each tile about a virtual trip.  Each day could be outlined on the canvas and students could be expected to include very specific details. 
All in all, I think edcanvas offers users something new aside from the traditional PowerPoint. It's easy, looks nice and allows access to a lot of outside tools. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Have you seen learnist?

Do you use Pinterest to save things for your classroom or school? Have I got something for you.  Learnist.  I stumbled across this awhile back while it was in beta and put my name in to join.  I got in a few weeks back and now, I am truly appreciating the site.

Learnist, like Pinterest allows users to save visual links into boards, the catch, however about Learnist, it is educationally based.  You won't find fashion, funky images of grumpy cat or pictures of tattoos.  It is solely for education so your boards are related to content specific things.  The boards are categorized by subject and then there are potentially subcategories.  For example: If you select Humanities, it opens up History and you pick which form of history.  It is actually very detailed and organized and I don't think it takes as much bandwidth to run.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I wanted to clean up my Pinterest boards and actually refer to some of the many pins I have made.  I am thinking I may move some of the school related pins to Learnist.  I can put a board together for Web 2.0, a board for library media, a board for bulletin boards.  It even allows you to put video. Love it.

One thing I have noticed is the order of files.  It marks them and puts them in order added so if you have saved them so you might see a long trail of links and visuals, which could be a bit overwhelming.  I recommend looking at it and trying to get an idea of how it works. I think it could benefit a lot of educators.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

EduTecher to find and save web 2.0 tools

As many of you know, I am quite a researcher and I spend a lot of my time searching out tech tools to benefit my colleagues and my students.  Sometimes, I get overwhelmed and can’t remember what I have looked at and evaluated. Sometimes, I find a cool tool and forget about it a few months later and don’t remember what it is.  I shared, a few posts back my process for finding and blogging about tools and I want to share a little more today about what I use to find my information.

I was listening to a SimpleK12 webinar a few weeks back and the presenter mentioned EduTecher as a tool she refers to often.  I had created an account a year or so back but hadn’t spent a lot of time using the site.  I decided to spend a little time investigating it and learning about it and sharing with my readers.
EduTecher is a virtual backpack were you can visually store sites you use.  There is a small icon called an educlipper that can be added to your browser and you can use it to add pages to your backpack.   Think of it like Pinterest but solely for education. The site has also gone into the app market so you can add it to your Apple or Android based device.  

You can also add contacts to your account and share your backpack with others. There are tons and tons of tools there to sift through and add to your backpack to try as well.  I love the enormous amount of tools to look through. There is definitely something for everyone.  The one complaint I have is that some of the links are out of date and no longer available, but, with the large number of other sites, that little glitch is tolerable.

Friday, June 7, 2013

From the Archives: CLEAR Video dropbox

Being that I am at the end of the school year and things are beyond hectic, here is an archive regarding CLEAR tools.  More to come next week.

For part three of my CLEAR tools, I decided to talk about the video dropbox.

If you read my post about the audio dropbox, you will know how easy these tools are to use.  Merely create an account, login and go.  You embed the dropbox into a website or Edmodo and voila, kids can record anything right off the bat. The fact that the teacher can set a time limit on the dropbox also helps

I used this a few times last year to record short skits in my French class but I think the tool could be used for so much more.

My school is a 1:1 school.  All students have a device with a webcam.  I can see a video dropbox being used for oral history reports, weather reports, broadcasts, and presentation.

The one disadvantage to the CLEAR tools is the teacher has the account and the final product is only accessible to the teacher.  It would be hard to use it as a collaboration tool or to share information online with others. (Perhaps a presentation to sister school or something.)

Take a look at it, if you are in a district with webcam capable devices, it could really work for you.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

From the Archives: CLEAR RIA Audio Dropbox

Part two of my trip to the Archives with CLEAR tools...

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.