Going Beyond the Tools!

September 5, 2014

Welcome back everyone! I hope you had a great summer. I’m excited to announce that Avi Spector’s ICT Blog is evolving into something a little different this school year. In the spring of 2008, Avi Spector’s ICT blog was started to collect and share web-based tools that could be used in our classrooms. It’s hard to believe that just six years ago smartphones were rare in the classroom, and apps and tablets didn’t even exist. Technology integration mainly involved using interactive websites to supplement teaching materials and there was lots of buzz around our new SMARTBoards. As such, a big part of my job was visiting FGA centres to provide one-size-fits-all technology demos to large groups of teachers.

Over time, I discovered that focusing solely a tool was not necessarily the best approach. Many workshop participants had trouble applying the tool in their own classroom environment, and therefore, they did not use it. As I got closer to the teachers I moved away from a one-size-fits-all approach and began working more collaboratively with teachers and smaller groups to come up with individualized solutions. We now start by first looking at the learning objective(s), rather than designing a lesson or learning situation around a particular tool.

This is the motivation behind my new website, Beyond the Tools. I want to help teachers move beyond the tools and work together to share our best practices in regards to technology integration. Rather than simply providing information about an app or tool, I will be focusing instead on sharing stories of successful projects and connecting teachers with similar goals.

I’ve also ported over my full history of app suggestions, interactive whiteboard content, and web tool suggestions from my old ICT blog. These may come in handy as you brainstorm about projects and look at what you would like to accomplish in the classroom. These all can be found at my new site at www.beyondthetools.com.

As many of our schools have opened their wifi networks to students, a lot of us now find ourselves teaching in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) classroom. Students might be experts at using their own devices but often still need a teacher’s guidance in knowing how and when to use their technology for learning. How can we help our students with information literacy skills (critical thinking, search strategies, copyrights) and safe on-line behavior? How can concepts like the Flipped Classroom and Gamification help in a BYOD classroom?

These are just a few of the topics I’d like to address on the new site. As always, I appreciate your comments and feedback. I’m also interested in hearing about you and showcasing your projects on Beyond The Tools for others to see and learn from throughout the year. Be sure to check my “speaking and events” section for upcoming events and links to resources from past workshops. See you around!

Note: If you’re already subscribed to Avi Spector’s ICT Blog by e-mail, I will automatically move over your e-mail subscription to Beyond the Tools. Nothing needs to be done on your part.


Use Weebly to create a class website

February 10, 2014

Link: education.weebly.com

Quick overview: Are you interested in creating a class website but don’t have technical experience, time, or budget? Weebly is an on-line tool that allows one to EASILY create a website without any knowledge of programming. In a nutshell, it’s a website building tool for non-techies. It’s also completely free, unless you want to upgrade to a Pro account for some additional advanced features.

How can Weebly be used in the classroom? I thought the most authentic way to present Weebly would be to provide you with two testimonials from actual FGA teachers who are using the tool:

Isabelle Bertolotti at Place Cartier, LBPSB shares: “My class website is my most important teaching tool. It is my virtual office where I communicate with students about my calendar, daily agenda, links and course notes. I can add or change information at a moments notice, and/or make special announcements. This has enhanced my students learning in that they can review class notes, videos, handouts at all times to suit their learning styles and levels. I am never worried about attendance because when they see the demands of the day through the daily agenda they can actually see the amount of work that is planned and how their absence will have a negative impact on their learning.”

Isabelle’s class Weebly: www.isabelleplacecartier.weebly.com

Matthew Kennedy at Place Cartier, LBPSB shares: “I use Weebly for my English class in order to provide students with access to content inside of the classroom on the SMART Board, at home on their computers, or on-the-go on their mobile devices. For my purposes, Weebly is primarily an organizational tool — one that provides a digital representation of everything I cover with my students. I include all of my daily lesson plans on the website, so students can review what we completed in class at the end of the day, or catch-up on what they missed if they were absent. I upload all assignments to the website for access outside of the classroom. The website is particularly useful when providing extra help for students in the computer lab or after class, because we can review elements of a lesson at the student’s own pace. The same goes for when students seek additional support at my school’s academic resource centre — support staff can access the website to help my students with a specific assignment, and even view daily lesson plans to learn the context of the assignment. The website also has a great blog function, which is useful for communicating with students between classes and also for generating friendly discussion and debate.”

Matthew’s class Weebly: www.english5062.weebly.com

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Benefits and Limitations: Weebly utilizes a straightforward WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) interface, which makes it much easier to create your class website. In regards to content, a Weebly site (like most other traditional websites) is often designed to share information in a “top down” approach, i.e. – information delivered from the teacher to the students. In comparison, a tool like Edmodo is often used to create a forum for ongoing class discussions between multiple students and the teacher.

(Huge thanks to Isabelle Bertolotti and Matthew Kennedy at Place Cartier Adult Education Centre, LBPSB for telling me all about Weebly and providing me with their testimonials. Thanks a lot guys!)


Coggle, the no-frills mind mapping tool

February 4, 2014

Link for Coggle: www.coggle.it

Quick overview: Coggle is a basic, no-frills, minimalist, “mind mapping” web tool that allows students to explore and expand upon their ideas in a visual way.

What is a Mind Mapping tool? Mind mapping is a different way to organize your thoughts. A mind map is setup like a tree, whereas you begin with one main concept and then branch out to related topics. With Coggle, each concept in the mind map is represented by a single word or a short sentence. The lines drawn between the words indicate the link between the concepts.

How can Coggle be used in the classroom? Coggle can be used by students to brainstorm, consolidate information, plan tasks, or present a topic. As a teacher, you can use it to organize and present information on your interactive whiteboard during class. As I’ve mentioned before, I used to dislike mind maps but I now use them to collect everyone’s ideas when I’m leading a meeting on a digital projector.

Benefits and limitations: Coggle was designed to be as simple as possible so there are no bells and whistles.. and that’s OK! However, if you’d like the ability to insert images or want multiple students to edit a mind map at the same time, check out my previous blog post on Popplet. To create an account on Coggle, you’ll need to sign in with a Google Account, which is safe to do.

Want to know how to use Coggle? Please watch this short video tutorial:coggleict_25

Source: ISTE 2013, San Antonio, “Collaboration in the Cloud: Tools that Talk!” Jennifer Parker-Moore, Macomb Intermediate School District with Janice Harding, Carolyn McCarthy and Melissa White and Phillip Vinogradov: Technology Integration – 21st century classroom Prezi.


3 backchannel tools to encourage active learning

January 28, 2014

What is a backchannel? A backchannel is a live, text-based, conversation that takes place while you teach. Students can pose questions to the group or make public comments without having to wait their turn or ask for permission. The goal of using a backchannel is to encourage passive students to become active learners.

today

What are the benefits and limitations? OK, so let’s address the elephant in the room. A lot of you may be concerned (and rightly so!) about introducing an interactive chat tool while you are teaching. Students could post inappropriate comments, go off topic, or simply not participate! I definitely agree that there needs to be some firm ground rules established before any backchannel tools are used. However, when used responsibly, I can personally attest that backchannels have the potential to get more students talking and participating in a lecture. A backchannel can be good for shy students or those Read the rest of this entry »


Cloud based tools: What are they and why should I use them?

January 21, 2014

Quick overview: This article addresses the benefits and limitations of popular “cloud based” tools.

What is the cloud? The easiest way to understand “the cloud” is to think about how you access your webmail, such as Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo. What all of these services have in common is that they store all your e-mail and attachments on-line, instead of on your home computer. The benefit is that you can access your data from any computer or mobile device – in a nutshell, that’s the cloud! There are also other cloud based services to store files, pictures, passwords, and notes. The one thing to remember is that not one company owns the cloud. The “cloud” is actually a generic term for any service where your information is stored on-line instead of a local device, such as a home computer.

What are the benefits? A cloud based service allows you to pull up a file, photo, document, or note on any device. Since all your data is stored on-line, there’s the added bonus of having all your important data backed up too. Many of the popular cloud based tools are free but you’ll pay more if you want more space or extra features. If you start using cloud based tools, you’ll often find there’s no need to carry USB drives or e-mail files back and forth to school.

What are the limitations? With some cloud based tools, you may not be able to access your files unless you have Internet access. There’s also an ever growing concern about security and privacy issues since your information is stored on-line and often in other countries. Lastly, it’s possible that you could lose all your information if the service is suddenly shut down or something unexpected happens. From my experience, that’s quite rare (especially with big reputable companies) and I haven’t lost a single file yet. If you’re at all Read the rest of this entry »


4 on-line tools for your students to create interactive timelines

January 14, 2014

Quick overview: A timeline tool allows students to create interactive timelines comprised of significant events. Each “event” on the timeline can be expanded on by the student to include text, images, and video. Timelines can be set private, public, or collaborative.

How can it be used in the classroom? Timeline tools can help students organize various pieces of information in chronological order but are not limited to history courses. Could you ask your students to assemble a timeline of incidents that has lead to a major current event? What about exploring their family history, creating a journal, or documenting the life of an important person? Keep in mind that some students may prefer to simply use paper and pencil to assemble a timeline.. and that’s OK! I think it’s all about giving students the choice to whatever approach works best for them.

Any suggestions for a history course? If you’re teaching a history course, you could ask your students to research and assemble an interactive timeline of a historical event. By encouraging them to analyze all the historical bits and pieces and create their own timeline, they may have a better chance of retaining the information rather than just memorizing a few out-of-context dates.

What are the four timeline tools? Since posting about Dipity a while back, I’ve also learned about TimeToast, TikiToki, and TimeGlider. All four timeline tools offer free accounts but with varying degrees of reduced functionality. Here’s a summary of the tools as of August 2013:

  • TimeToast’s free account allows you to create multiple timelines, but some banner ads will appear.
  • Tiki-Toki’s free account limits you to only 1 timeline at a time and is ad supported. The free account allows students to embed YouTube and Vimeo videos.
  • Dipity’s free account limits you to 3 timelines, limited to 50MB, and is ad supported.
  • TimeGlider free account is limited to 3 timelines, 20 images, and is only available to active students below the graduate level.

Benefits and limitations: Your best bet is to start by creating a free account and explore the tools yourself. Even if one tool is more limited than another, which is ultimately the easiest to use? Do you absolutely love one of the tools but don’t like the limitations of the free account? It might be worth signing up! (Thanks to Marie-Christine Kovacs, ETSB, New Horizons for telling me about Tiki-Toki.)


Top 5 tools to connect with other educators and curate classroom resources

January 7, 2014

Quick overview: Welcome back everyone! Are you looking for new ideas, resources, and fresh ways to deliver your content this semester? There’s often too much stuff out there to sift through… Where do you start?

Edudemic: Edudemic has teacher guides on educational technologies and current trends, the best in educational technologies (i.e. – apps, hardware) and resources for students. Very well organized, lots of useful and frequently updated content.

Appitic: Got a new tablet over the holidays? If you’re looking for apps to recommend to your students, Appitic may be a good place to start. Apps are sorted by subject area, academic level, bloom’s taxonomy, and more. In addition, you may also want to check out this EdTechTeacher site which organizes apps by learning objective.

Twitter: I’ve said this many times before, but Twitter is still my very first choice for keeping up to date with my PD throughout the year. You can use Twitter to help find classroom resources and teaching strategies and start building your PLN. Once you give a shot, you’ll see why thousands of other educators are using Twitter too! If you’re interested, I’d be happy to come to your centre and provide a hands-on workshop.

Pinterest: Use Pinterest to explore and curate PD resources for yourself or to create organized “pins” around different topics for your students to explore on their own. If you’re teaching in an individualized setting, I genuinely think Pinterest has the potential to be a game changing tool. I’m head over heels for Pinterest but I’ve already professed my undying love for Pinterest in a previous blog post.

Educlipper: Educlipper is a visual bookmarking tool, developed by leading educator, Adam Bellow. If you like the idea of Pinterest, you’ll like using Educlipper too. Designed specifically for education, it’s school safe. Click here to try Educlipper yourself.

Link for Edudemic web
Link for Appitic web
Link for Twitter web, Apple iOS, Android
Link for Pinterest web, Apple iOS, Android
Link for Educlipper web, Apple iOS

(Source: Thanks for Jason Bronsther, lead automobile mechanics teacher at WQCC, WQSB for getting me hooked on Edudemic and Adam Bellow for showing us EduClipper at ISTE 2013, San Antonio.)


Top 5 Posts + Survey: ICT suggestions will start again in January 2014.. Have a great winter break!

December 16, 2013

Yet another term is coming to an end. I’m pleased to share that we now have over 425 teachers and administrators subscribed via weekly e-mail updates to the ICT blog. I’d like to take a moment to thank you ALL for your continued support! As per usual, the blog is going on a short hiatus for the winter holidays, but it will be back in early January 2014. I hope you all have a very relaxing winter break!

winter1Creative Commons Attribution License: Flickr user AlicePopKorn2

In wrapping up this term, I’d like to get YOUR feedback on the ICT Blog. What did you like? Is there anything you’d like to see more of? Less?

Please click here for the link to my anonymous ICT Blog 2013-2014 survey. If you have five minutes, it will help ensure that the blog is most relevant to your needs. Thank you!

Last but not least, I’d like to present my personal top 5 favorite ICT suggestions of the 2013-2014 school year:

  1. Pinterest allows you to curate web resources in a single place. Instead of providing paper handouts to your students, give them the link to your Pintrest account with your board(s). The neat part is that you can also add, remove, update links after the class is over. Pinterest is both easy to navigate and visually appealing. I love it!
  2. Creative Commons Search: With the ever increasing amount of digital resources our there, I think it’s important to educate ourselves and our students about fair use and copyrights. That’s why this resource takes the #2 spot. Think of this site as a master hub for searching for copyright free images, sounds, and videos. This site makes it easy to find stuff!
  3. Twitter is where I go to receive resources and on-going professional development in “bite sized” doses throughout the school year. I use Twitter to follow like minded educators who are interested in the same topics as me. This group of people is called my Personal Learning Network, or PLN for short. I actually don’t use Twitter for personal use, only work.
  4. Edmodo is actively being used by many FGA teachers and students in the Quebec English school boards. Edmodo can either be used to network with other teachers or as a platform for a class website. Edmodo works on Mac, PC, and mobile devices.
  5. Explain Everything I’m still a huge fan of this iPad/Android app which enables teachers to create their own teaching capsules. It takes a minimal amount of time to get effective results, no need to film yourself either. I think it’s an essential tool for “Flipping the Classroom” or to answer student questions remotely. I’ve also created a video tutorial that explains how to use it in more detail.

Two webinars, virtual office hours, and a new special needs teacher network!

November 12, 2013

Webinars: I’m happy to announce that I will be offering two special topics webinars this semester. A webinar is a live online presentation conducted over the Internet. All you need to attend is a computer or tablet. The webinars are offered free of charge but FGA teachers have priority as limited spacing are available for each session. You may request to enroll in either one or both webinars:

Flipping the Classroom webinar: What if a learner could rewind a teacher’s explanation as often as needed for a concept or notion to sink in? What if teaching-time was used to interact more with learners? I plan to provide an overview of the Flipped Classroom and offer sustainable suggestions for implementing the model in an adult education classroom. Please consult the Flipped Classroom enrollment form if you are interested in attending this webinar. The webinar will be offered on Tuesday, December 3rd from 12PM to 1PM (60 minutes)

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) webinar: Many of our students have access to mobile devices such as tablets, smartphones, and laptops. How can we use student owned devices to enrich learning? What about network limitations and classroom management? The aim of this session is to cover the benefits and limitations of BYOD and provide you with some concrete suggestions to get you started. If you are interested in attending, please consult the BYOD enrollment form. The webinar will be offered on Wednesday, December 4th from 12PM to 1PM. (60 minutes)

Office Hours: I’d like to start offering virtual office hours during the school year. Want to discuss a project? Need some pedagogical support in regards to technology integration? Let me know! My next office hours day will Thursday, November 28th. Please fill out this office hours enrollment form if you’d like to book an appointment. For FGA teachers only.

Are you an SFIS/SIS teacher? Do you work with adults with intellectual disabilities, mental health challenges, or have other pervasive special needs? Since we’re all pretty spread out, I’m looking to network teachers together with an Edmodo SFIS/SIS group. If you have any successes, challenges, apps, or anything else you’d like to share – please join us! If you’re already signed up on Edmodo, enter the group code “shhzzf” once you’re logged in. If you receive a message that the group is locked, please click this link or give me a shout for more help. Hope to see you there!


Curate web resources for yourself or for your students with Pinterest!

October 21, 2013

Quick overview: Pinterest allows you to curate a variety of web resources in a single place. The great thing about Pinterest is that it’s both easy to navigate and visually appealing. It’s a great tool for both students and teachers. I don’t say things like this often, but I firmly believe Pinterest can be a game changing tool for your classroom.

Isn’t Pinterest for cakes and bottlecap collections? Urgh. No, it’s not. Sure, there’s nothing stopping you if you’d like to use Pinterest for your own hobbies but Pinterest is now being used in many classrooms, including my own workshops. Please watch the following short video to see what’s possible with Pinterest but don’t be put off by the “pins” around wedding dresses and shelves. Remember, you can pin whatever content you’d like to your Pinterest boards:pinterestHow we use it: The RECIT FGA team started using Pinterest late last school year to curate different on-line resources for our workshops. Instead of giving out paper handouts, we now give the link to our Pintrest boards. We can also add, remove, update links after the workshop. Here’s a great example of a Flipped Classroom Pinterest board created by my colleague, Marc-André Lalande.

How can it be used in the classroom? Why not create a Pinterest board of useful topics for an FSL/English class, history, or different math concepts? It’s also a good tool if you’d like to provide resources to students when “flipping” your classroom. For more ideas, follow this link for 37 different ways to use Pinterest in your classroom.

What about for my own use as a teacher? Use Pinterest to curate teaching resources (for your own PD) on private boards that contain links for only you to see. Likewise, you can co-create a collaborative board with a fellow teacher. Last but not least, you can use Pinterest to search for lesson plans and other resources too.

How does it work? Once you create an account, you can organize links to websites by “pinning” them to different virtual boards. You are free to reference these boards at a later date or share them with your students. Students do not need to create an account to access your Pinterest boards. All for free!

Want to know more? We’d be more than happy to do a Pinterest session in your FGA centre to get you started. The goal would be to show you how you can use Pinterest for your students and your professional development. If you’re an FGA centre director or teacher, please contact me for more info.

Link to Pinterest Web: www.pinterest.com
Link to Pinterest apps for Mobile: Apple iOS and Google Android
Avi’s Pinterest: pinterest.com/avimspector
Marc-André’s Pinterest: pinterest.com/lalandema

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Two bulletin boards tools that allow you or your students to share “bite sized” ideas

September 24, 2013

Quick overview: Padlet and Lino allow teachers and students to assemble a variety of text, images, or videos on a virtual bulletin board. Either one of these tools allows one to share a collection of related “bite sized” ideas. Multiple students can work on the same board simultaneously. Boards can be public or private.

What are Padlet and Lino? Padlet and Lino are actually two different tools but are quite similar in regards to functionality. Both tools allow you to add text, images, and videos to a virtual board. You can even attach Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents too. Both tools work on smartphones, iPad, and Android devices.

How can use these two tools be used in the classroom? I’ve linked to detailed tips how padlet and how lino can be used in a classroom. For a more broad overview, these two tools can be used for:

– Class research board(s) around one topic
– Class brainstorming/suggestions/questions
– Gathering needs or goals from multiple students in one place
– Debates/Viewpoints (on a private board)
– Vocabulary/Verb boards

I’m confused! Both tools sound exactly the same: It really comes down to looking at both and seeing which one you think would be a better fit for yours students. I’ve included a link of how the tools work and a detailed comparison between the two.pad-v-sinoOn Brainstorming with these tools: In an earlier blog post, I highlighted how you can use Wordle used to break down text and allow your students to literally “see” the most predominant words (i.e. – themes) used throughout the text. A neat idea is to manually copy all the text from a finalized Padlet/Lino into Wordle to create a Wordle word cloud based on the class brainstorm.

Link: www.padlet.com and en.linoit.com

Doesn’t Lino look a little familiar? Yes, Lino is similar to Corkboard.me, a tool I blogged about in March 2012. However, Corkboard.me is no longer available in its old format. (Source: Jim Hirsch’s “Learning Jams: Improvising BYOD Learning Opportunities in Your Classroom” ISTE 2013, San Antonio. Also thanks to Tony Vincent’s Learning in hand and The Teachersfirst website.)


Two different “infographic” tools to simplify complex information

September 17, 2013

Quick overview: An Inforgraphic allows you or your students to create a professional looking visual representation of real world data. Piktochart.com and Easelly are two on-line tools that allow one to create an infographic in a simple interface. No graphic design experience needed!

What is an infographic? Here’s a perfect definition from Wikipedia, “Infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. Infographics can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends.”

ease2

How can I use infographics in the classroom? Are looking for ways to bring some visual impact to statistics in a math or economics class? Why not ask your students to research statistics (on a topic related to your course material) and demonstrate their findings in an infographic?

Where do I get raw data? A good place to start would be to ask your students to look through some of the data sources below:

– Statistics Canada: www.statcan.gc.ca/start-debut-eng.html
– Number of things: www.numbeof.net
– Wolfram Alpha: www.wolframalpha.com
– US census: www.census.gov
– Datamarket.com: www.datamarket.com
– Google Public Data Explorer www.google.com/publicdata/directory

Benefits and limitations: I’d go out on a limb and recommended that you first start out with Piktochart and see if it fits your classroom needs. It’s user friendly and allows you to easily insert charts and graphs into your Infographics. Easelly is also very user friendly, but there is (currently) no way automatically create charts and graphs based on collected data.

Word to the wise: I recommended that you set a predetermined time limit on how long they can spend on adjusting the “look” and theme of their infographics. The focus should be on interpreting the data. As I’ve mentioned with other multimedia tools, students might spend more time focusing on the bells and whistles (i.e. – making things pretty) rather than focusing on the learning objectives of the project.

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Source: ISTE 2013 San Antonio: Carmella Doty, Prince George’s County BOE with Renee Henderson, Infographics: Learn How to Create and Present Information Visually and Adam Bellow’s “Make Your Classroom Rock” ISTE 2013, San Antonio


Socrative: A quick and easy way to obtain immediate student feedback during class

September 3, 2013

Link: http://www.socrative.com

Quick overview: Socrative is a “student response system” that allows teachers to poll students and obtain immediate feedback throughout a class lecture. Socrative works on any computer, smartphone, or tablet. What I like best about Socrative is that there’s a VERY low learning curve for both teachers and students. It’s also easy to get up and running on a moment’s notice. This tool comes very highly recommended. Free!

How can I use this in my classroom? This tool is best used for formative assessment purposes during a lecutre. Using Socrative, you can ask your students to respond to a short answer question, multiple choice, or true/false question on their computer or mobile device while you are teaching.

How does it work? Let’s say something tricky comes up and you’d like to measure your students understanding during class. Simply ask your question out loud or write it down on the blackboard. There’s no need to touch a computer. Next, use Socrates to send a poll to your students from your teacher computer. Your students will either be prompted to write in a short answer or select either A,B, C, or D from their mobile device or lab computer screen.  As the different responses come in (which can be anonymous) they’ll be displayed to the rest of the class. Even if you’re someone who’s not too comfortable with technology, it literally takes seconds to setup and initiate a poll:socrtiveOther neat features: After class, you can choose to export results to a spreadsheet. If you’d prefer to prepare a detailed quiz in advance, you can import saved quizzes too. If any inappropriate short answers are submitted during class, they can be immediately deleted by the teacher by clicking on the “red x” next to student’s answer.

Benefits and limitations: Any old computer will do, there’s no need for fancy hardware for you or the students. There’s minimal to no preparation needed (i.e. – you don’t need to prepare any quizzes in advance) which is great for impromptu teaching moments. Accounts are not needed for students to use the tool either. Please keep in mind that you need to be in a room with computers (i.e. – school lab) or have a set of Internet enabled tablets or smartphones available. In my opinion, Socrative is great tool to use in a BYOD classroom, but always remember that if students use their own devices, they should be on the school’s wifi or they can incur data charges to participate.

One last thing: I firmly believe that this tool should NOT be used for summative assessment purposes but rather to get authentic feedback from your students as you go along. Have fun! (Source: Rob Zdrojewski’s “Using Socrative.com to Engage Your Students” ISTE 2013, San Antonio)

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ICT Tip: Gooru is a search engine designed to help teachers and students to find educational resources

April 9, 2013

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Link: www.goorulearning.org

Quick overview: Gooru is a search engine. Unlike Google or Bing, Gooru organizes results into categories in the way you’d use the materials in your classroom. For example, if one were to do a search for “fractions” you’ll get results for fractions related videos, websites, exams, textbooks, handouts, lessons, slides, and quizzes. It can be used both by teachers and students. It’s free too!

How can this be used by teachers? Gooru is a neat place to start if you need to look for additional materials to use in a science, world history, biology, chemistry, physics, or math class. However, please keep in mind that as with anything else you’ll find on the Internet, it’s not a magic solution. You’ll likely find that you’ll be spending more time evaluating the materials, rather than finding them! (Source: Tracy Rosen, resource teacher at Nova Career Centre, NFSB)

Copyrights: All the materials linked on Gooru are Open Educational Resources, which are are “freely accessible, openly formatted and openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, education, assessment and research purposes“.

How can this be used by students? Students can browse “collections” based around specific topics on Gooru if they’d like to study on their own. Want to know more about how this all works? Watch the following video:


ICT Tip: A surprisingly accurate Google Chrome “voice-to-text” extension for the Mac or PC

March 12, 2013

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Link: Voicenote Extension for Google Chrome

Quick overview: Voicenote is an English voice-to-text software that works in your computer’s web browser that works WELL and is free!

What is it? In a nutshell, using any microphone equipped Mac or PC you can install a Google Chrome extension called “Voicenote” to transcribe anything you say into written text. You would then copy and paste the resulting text into an e-mail, Word, or wherever you want!

How can this be used in the classroom? First as foremost, I think this tool has the potential to be a great fit for any students who are able to verbalize well but have trouble with spelling, handwriting, or writing down their thoughts (i.e. – Dysgraphia). Even without a learning disability, I think the “voice-to-text” approach is a great time saver. For example, students could use this tool to “write” a 1st draft of an essay or get their initial thoughts down on paper. Personally, I use voice-to-text to help me get MY thoughts out whenever I’m writing professional correspondence. I find my words flow much easier when I speak them aloud first. I then do a second pass (using my keyboard) to touch things up.

Technical stuff: This is a Google Chrome extension for the PC or Mac. Requires Google Chrome and a microphone. If you’d like to know more about Chrome Extensions before installing them in your web browser, please follow this link. As with all voice-to-text software (at the moment) it works best with native English speakers that don’t have an accent. It also doesn’t work in French, sorry! Watch the video below and don’t forget to make it full screen… (Special thanks to Sonia Pietravalle, EMSB for helping me locate and explore this Google Chrome extension.)

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ICT Tip: 4 ways to find digital images without breaking any copyright laws

February 19, 2013

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Quick overview: While it’s often tempting to just use questionably copyrighted images for “oh-well-this-will-never-leave-the-classroom” student projects, I think it’s a good idea to start educating ourselves and our students about fair use and copyrights.. no matter how big or small the project! If you want to start teaching your students about digital citizenship, this may be a good place to start. Click on the name of the tools (see below) to find out more.

What is Creative Commons? If you haven’t heard about Creative Commons yet, I suggest you watch this 3 minute video before reading any further.

1) FlickrStackr Explore: If your students are using iPads, this free app allows them to enter in a keyword and swipe through a “wall” of Creative Commons images, similar to Qflick. To do this in the app, they would need to click on the “search” box and then choose “Creative Commons” in the search properties. Once they find an image that they like, they would click on this icon to obtain the name of the author so they can credit them in their work.

2) Creative Commons: This resource isn’t as fancy looking as FlickrStackr but it works both on desktops and mobile devices. Personally, I find I often go here first since it’s a “one stop shop” to search several sites where I’m most likely to find Creative Commons material. Think of this site as a master hub for searching for copyright free materials. Bonus: The Creative Commons search engine allows you to search for other types of media (sound, video, etc..) too.

3) Advanced Google Image Search: Yes, using Google Images is often the easiest way to get images from the Internet. However, did you know that when you do an image search, most of the images you’ll find are not copyright free? While it’s true that you can use the advanced Google Image search function to specify the “usage rights”, you’re still not guaranteed that the images being returned are copyright free. In fact, like ANY of the tools we’re looking at today, Google’s advanced search merely uses automated algorithms to find copyright free images. It’s always up to the user to verify that the images they are in fact, Creative Commons.

How do I check if an image has an actual Creative Commons license? In general, the license will usually be written near the image or clearly indicated in the app. If you can’t find a license, you’re safer to just find another image. Keep in mind that this rule applies to ALL of the tools listed above.. Always verify!

4) Pic4LearningUpdate 2/25/2013: Right after posting this article, I stumbled upon a great site named Pic4Learning. The great thing about Pic4Learning is that you are free to use the images on the site without needing to check for licenses, copyrights, or even attribute the original author, as long as you use the image in education. Here is the description from their site: “Pics4Learning is a safe, free image library for education. Teachers and students can use the copyright-friendly photos and images for classrooms, multimedia projects, web sites, videos, portfolios, or any other project in an educational setting.” Definitely work checking out!


9 short video capsules: Everything you ever wanted to know about Edmodo but were afraid to ask!

January 15, 2013

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Quick summary: This post contains nine short video capsules to help FGA teachers use Edmodo. Edmodo is a popular on-line platform that helps teachers network with each other or create an on-line community for their students. If you’d like to know more about Edmodo, here’s a link to my previous blog post.

Why this post? Starting in the fall of 2011, Edmodo has been catching on like wildfire with FGA teachers. There’s now lots of us using it to network with one another for professional development (i.e. – Learning Circles) while some of us are using it in-class with our students. To address any questions, I’ve recorded a few short videos tutorials to cover some important topics:

Signing up for Edmodo: If you’re not on Edmodo yet, please watch this video first: How to sign-up for Edmodo (0:43)

Using Edmodo: For those already using Edmodo, the following eight videos can be watched in any order:

What about Mobile devices? Edmodo is also available as an app for students to access your class Edmodo site from their iPhones, iPods, iPads, or Android mobile devices.


Top 5 blog posts of 2012: See you again in January, have a great winter holiday!

December 18, 2012

As the first term of the school year draws to a close, the ICT Blog will be taking a short vacation. The blog will return with weekly ICT suggestions and Mobile Mondays in January 2013. If you’re looking for some interesting ideas to try out when you’re back from the holidays, I’d like to present my personal top 5 ICT suggestions of 2012:

  1. Tubechop: We’ll start my countdown list with small and simple. This teacher centric tool allows you to “chop” down YouTube videos. Allows you to only show the parts of the video that you want to present in-class. Bonus: Also hides distracting “suggested” YouTube videos too.
  2. Book Creator: This app has been a runaway hit with FGA teachers. If you’re a language teacher with access to a set of iPads, this is a must see tool to help your students develop writing and speaking skills. Can be adapted for special needs too.
  3. QR Codes: QR Codes are a neat way to provide tailored information to your students on their smartphones or on a set of class iPads. The RECIT FGA team has started using QR codes in our own workshops too. Interested? Here are two short videos I made that explain how to create your own codes and how your students can scan them.
  4. Explain Everything: I’m a huge fan of this app which enables teachers to create their own teaching capsules. It takes a minimal amount of time to get effective results, no need to film yourself either. Great for flipping the classroom or to answer student questions.
  5. Edmodo is my top ICT suggestion of 2012, hands down! This tool is now actively being used by many FGA teachers and students in the Quebec English school boards. In a nutshell, it can either be used to network teachers with teachers (PD) or teachers with students (class website). Edmodo works on Mac, PC, and mobile devices. If you haven’t looked at Edmodo yet, check it out!

Last but not least, please feel free to submit any great websites, apps, or ICT materials that you’ve used successfully in your own classroom. You can do so by referring to the submit section of this website. If I feature your ICT suggestion, I will be sure to credit you. Thank you and happy holidays from the whole RECIT FGA team!

holi-locker
Photo credit: Photo by Qflick user Jeremyiah used under a Creative Commons attribution license

ICT Tip: Tubechop allows you to extract a small portion of a YouTube video to show in class

October 16, 2012

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Quick overview: Tubechop allows you to select an existing YouTube video and present only the part you want to show to your students. No more having to fast forward through irrelevant or potentially inappropriate content in front of your class!

How can this be used in the classroom: Keep in mind that “chopping” should be done before your class starts. You’ll then have a new link you can bookmark on your teacher computer or share with your students. Check out the video below to learn more. (Source: 101 Free Tech Tools by SimpleK12 @ ISTE 2012, San Diego)


ICT Tip: Pen.io allows you to generate a simple webpage in a matter of seconds

October 2, 2012

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Link: www.pen.io

Quick overview: Pen.io allows teachers or students generate a simple webpage in a matter of seconds. Absolutely no web design skills necessary. Great for students or teachers who need to quickly place a small amount of written information on-line. Free!

How can it be used in the classroom? Pen.io isn’t meant to create detailed websites, there are other tools for that. Teachers can use Pen.io to post up class announcements, homework, or simple instructions for assignments. Likewise, students could use Pen.io to post up short texts such as stories, poems, posters, or public journals that they would want to share with others. If desired, one can also embed images and YouTube videos into Pen.io webpages.

Something to keep in mind: Pen.io webpages are public. Students should be reminded to use discretion when posting content of a personal or sensitive nature.


ICT Tip: Three “less is more” ICT tools for you and your students

September 18, 2012

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Quick overview: Less is more! Three on-line tools that aim to keep “information overload” to a minimum.

Viewpure: When presenting YouTube clips, do you find that all the comments and suggestions for other YouTube videos distract your students? If so, try using the Viewpure website to show a YouTube video on a minimal clean white background. To use this tool, simply copy the URL of any YouTube video and paste it into the “enter YouTube URL” box found at www.viewpure.com. Need step-by-step instructions? Then watch this video.

Printfriendly: Do you ever print out webpages but don’t like wasting gobs of ink and paper on ads and blank pages? Copy the URL of any website you’d like to print and paste it into the “enter URL” box found at www.printfriendly.com. With Printfriendly can even remove parts of the text or images you don’t want included. Need step-by-step instructions? Then watch this video.

Readability: Do you have students that have trouble focusing when there’s too much clutter on the screen? If you’re using Firefox of Chrome, then you can install the free Readability extension which will transform any webpage into plain text on a white background with a click of a “read now” button that will be installed in your browser’s toolbar. No copying and pasting URLs required. This extension is safe to install and is widely recognized in the education community. Readability can work in conjunction with your iPad, smartphone, or Kindle with a “read it later” function. Need more info? Here’s a video with more information.

(Sources: 101 Free Tech Tools by SimpleK12 and Best High School Education Apps by Dr. Alice Christie @ ISTE 2012, San Diego)


ICT Tip: Edmodo – Go beyond a class website, create a classroom community!

September 4, 2012

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Link: www.edmodo.com

Quick overview: Looking for a new way to start the school year? Edmodo is an online tool that allows you to create an interactive class website. Unlike a traditional class website, Edmodo allows your students to engage in group discussions, submit/receive assignments, vote in polls, share links, or consult your class calendar. Edmodo looks similar to Facebook but is specifically designed to be used in eduction. The best part is that it’s also easy to use and setup! There’s an iPad, iPod, and iPhone app too. Well established, secure, and free.

How do I set it up? Upon signing up for Edmodo, you’ll be provided with a unique “class passcode” to share with your group of students. Students enter the passcode when they sign-up. Edmodo can also be used as a communication platform for teachers in a Learning Circle or a Personal Learning Network.

How safe is it for my students? To discourage cyber-bulling, students can send messages to the group or the teacher, but not privately to each other. All content is teacher moderated and only your own students can join the group. Since Edmodo is not Facebook, it’s not blocked in schools. As an added layer of security, some teachers like to change the group passcode once all of their students are accounted for as to avoid any “uninvited guests” being unintentionally invited later in the school year. (Source: Flip Teaching Secondary Mathematics – Best Practices in Action at ISTE 2012, San Diego)


ICT Tip: TED-Ed helps you “Flip your Classroom” by using existing on-line videos

May 1, 2012

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Links: ed.ted.com

Quick overview: Not only does the TED-Ed website have lots of great videos that were created in partnership by educators and animators, the website now allows you to take an existing video and build your own lesson around it. More specifically, you can pick any TED-Ed or YouTube video and attach your own quizzes, short answer questions, and links. After that, share the unique web address with your students.

What is Flipping the Classroom? Check out these short video clips by Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergman to explain the concept. If you have a little more time, you may also want to check out this video by Salman Khan. It’s worth mentioning that in adult education, we often avoid assigning homework since many of our students have commitments outside of school. As so, videos can instead be shown in class or students can be taken to the computer lab during class time.

How can this be used in the classroom? In my opinion, using multiple videos allows you to differentiate your teaching materials and avoid a one size fits all lecture. That being said, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to “flip” everything you do. On the contrary, I’d save “flipping” for the tricky stuff where students may benefit from watching multiple (and preferably short!) explanations. Rather than creating your own videos from scratch, using YouTube or TED-Ed videos can allow for a quick and sustainable way to flip your classroom.

Looking for on-line video materials? Be sure to check out the TED-Ed videos which are categorized by subject and created specifically for education. There’s lots of great new material to be found. If you’d like to know more, I’ve included a link to an overview of how it all works.

Are we offering any workshops on flipping the classroom? The RECIT Provincial and Regional services is planning to offer an FGA Flipping the Classroom workshop in late May 2012. Please contact either Marc-André Lalande or myself if you’d like more information.

Video: To see a 3 minute video example of how to create your own lessons from TedEd or YouTube videos, please click the play button below:


ICT Tip: Alternatives to YouTube and other on-line video sites to use in your classroom

April 10, 2012

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Links: www.vimeo.com, www.schooltube.com, www.dotsub.com

Quick overview: Three different video websites that are similar to YouTube but are less likely to be blocked by your school board or district filters. Also, more places to look for existing material when flipping your classroom!

What are these sites? Like it or not, YouTube is often blocked by our school board or district filters. On the ICT Blog, we’ve shared ways to circumvent the blocks but these workarounds often require some advance preparation. In this post we’d like to provide you with some quick alternatives for screening videos in the classroom.

How are these sites different from YouTube? While Vimeo and SchoolTube‘s video collections are nowhere as comprehensive as YouTube, many of the videos on these two sites have been created by students or amateur videographers. This opens up the door to all sorts of potentially interesting videos that can’t be found elsewhere. In addition, as SchoolTube has been specifically created for education, your students can upload their own videos if they choose to do so.

What about videos for second language learners? Second language students may be interested in Dotsub which contains English language videos of news broadcasts, current events, documentaries, and so on. However, the main appeal of Dotsub is that students can watch the videos on the site with written subtitles in the language of their choice. (Source: Joanne Salvagio, Saint-Laurent Adult Centre, EMSB)

Word of caution: Even during a spontaneous teaching moment, it’s still a good idea to check out a video in advance before showing it to your class, especially when showcasing videos you are not familiar with. Is the video relevant and appropriate for your students?

Want even more video sites to explore? Still not enough? Here’s a great link to 100 other video sites to explore using in your classroom. (Source: Missnoor28 via Twitter)



ICT Tip: Popplet allows your students to do collaborative brainstorming

April 2, 2012

This post could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Link: www.popplet.com

Quick overview: Popplet is a “mind mapping” tool that allows students to explore and expand upon their ideas in a visual way. It’s free, collaborative, and easy to use!

What is Mind Mapping? Mind mapping is a different way for us to organize our thoughts. A mind map is often setup like a tree, whereas you begin with one main concept and then branch out to many related topics. Each concept in the mind map is represented by a “bubble” that may contain a few words, an image, or even a video. The lines drawn between the “bubbles” indicate the link between the concepts. I’m the first to admit that I’ve never been terribly excited about mind maps. I’ve always liked to simply jot down my ideas in a bullet point list. That being said, I’ve started using Popplet with my colleagues and I’m amazed at how intuitive it is to brainstorm together. It’s definitely worth trying out and it also works well on an IWB (SMARTBoard) too!

How can it be used in the classroom? Popplets can be used by students to brainstorm, consolidate information from multiple sources, plan tasks, or present a topic. A Popplet mind map can be created by one student or simultaneously by a group of students on different computers. A maximum of six popplets can be stored within an account. If you reach your maximum, you can simply delete the popplets you’re done with to get more. Popplet mind maps can also be exported to PDF or JPG.

What about mobile devices? Popplet Lite and Popplet is available for the iPad for those with iPads in their classrooms. (Thanks to Catherine Boisvert, FSL teacher at Eastern Quebec Learning Centre, CQSB for being the first to explore this resource with me!)

Video: To see a 5 minute video demonstrating how the tool works, please click the image below:


ICT Tip: Corkboard.Me allows for realtime collaboration between your students

March 13, 2012

This post could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Link: hello.corkboard.me

Quick overview: A website that allows you or your students to simultaneously place written “sticky notes” on a virtual corkboard. More than just a simple message board, students will see written sticky notes appear as they are being typed. No usernames required, simply start a new Corkboard and share the URL with your students. Free!

How could this be used in the classroom: Corkboard.Me could be used for class research projects, brainstorming sessions, peer correcting, or a collaborative class message “wall” without using private Facebook accounts. For those of you familiar with Etherpad, CorkboardMe is similar in concept but with “sticky notes” instead of a writing pad.

Benefits and limitations: Corkboard.Me is quick to setup, easy to use, and collaborative. A limitation is that anyone can make changes to the notes if the public corkboard is setup with a free account. As so, I would suggest the tool be used with a more mature group of students and a series of “do’s and don’ts” should be established right from the start. Since anything can be changed or viewed on a public Corkboard, I would avoid posting crucial homework assignments or private comments.

How to manage this resource: To keep track who wrote what, I’d suggest students sign their names at the end of their notes. I would also suggest the teacher use a URL shortener such as TinyURL so it’s easier to provide the address of your corkboard to your students. (Special thanks to Stephanie Sabbagh, Place Cartier, LBPSB for inviting me into her classroom and trying this out with her winter French prep students!)

Video: To see a 3 minute video demonstrating how the tool works, please click the play button below:


ICT Tip: Prezi instead of PowerPoint?

February 28, 2012

This post could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Link: www.prezi.com

What is it? Prezi a popular on-line presentation tool that goes way beyond your typical PowerPoint. Prezi can be used by both students and teachers. Prezi offers free licenses for students and teachers.

What’s Prezi? Well.. Prezi is one of those things that needs to be seen to be understood. As so, I would encourage you to look at this sample before reading any further. In a nutshell, a Prezi presentation contains all the information you’d like to present on one huge canvas. With each click, the screen zooms and flies to the next point. If after you’d like to know more about making your own Prezis, you can follow this link.

How can it be used in the classroom? Prezi can be used whenever you or your students might use a PowerPoint presentation. A Prezi presentation can be made collaborative so a whole team of students could work on one presentation. Also check out the PreziU library which contains categorized presentations contributed by teachers and students. For my mobile blog readers, the Prezi viewer is now available for the iPad too!

Benefits and limitations: Prezi is an on-line tool. This means there’s no need to worry about USB drives or if you have access to the latest version of PowerPoint. It’s also easier to integrate YouTube video clips into a Prezi than in a PowerPoint. However, the fact that Prezi is on-line can also be disadvantage. If your Internet connection is down, so is your Prezi! Technically, Prezi Desktop allows you to download an offline version of your Prezi, but that feature requires a paid account. (Special thanks to Nancy Sher, CDC Vimont, SWLSB for inviting me to try Prezi with her English 5061-3 students.)


ICT Tip: YouTube for Schools

January 24, 2012

This post could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Link: www.youtube.com/teachers

Quick overview: A version of YouTube designed specifically for education. This can also be a great resource if you’re looking for subject specific videos to help flip your classroom.

What does it do? YouTube for schools contains videos categorized by subject and grade level. Teachers and students can find videos of science experiments, language tutoring, math examples, world events, and so on. In an attempt to minimize distractions for students, YouTube for schools does NOT contain any comments or “side bar” video suggestions. Please keep in mind that if YouTube is currently blocked in your center, this new site does not automatically mean YouTube will be unblocked. We’ll talk about some alternatives for educational video sites in an upcoming blog post.

Video Tutorial: For more information on YouTube for Schools, please click the (1 minute) video link below:


Consider this: Twitter for Professional Development?

January 17, 2012

This post could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Quick overview: A short video explaining the benefits of using Twitter for your professional development as a teacher.

What is this about? Believe it or not, Twitter can be an invaluable educational tool that can help you easily connect with other educators in order to find new ideas and resources to use in your classroom.

How does it work? Twitter isn’t at all like Facebook. You don’t have to share personal information or spend a lot of time if you don’t want to. In fact, it’s perfectly OK to simply start “following” people or educational organizations you find interesting and see what they have to say from time to time. It’s soft of like tuning in to watch the evening news to see if anything interesting has happened. However, instead you’ll tune-in to “follow” web resources and teaching tips tailored to your classroom needs.

Need help? Are you an FGA teacher looking to sign-up for Twitter and need some pointers where to start? Give us a shout by e-mail. If you’re already on Twitter, we are: a_spector (Avi) alainphaneuf (Alain) and malalande (Marc-André). We so strongly believe in this self-guided approach to PD, that if there’s only one thing we hope you take away from our ICT Blog this school year, it would be to start using Twitter!

Video Tutorial: To explain the pedagogical benefits of using Twitter for PD, my colleague Marc-André Lalande has put together an amazing (5 minute) video called “To Tweet or not to Tweet: (Source: Marc-André Lalande, RECIT FGA Pedagogical Consultant, via r.u.aware blog)


Consider this: What is “schoolisyzation”?

December 6, 2011

This post could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Quick overview: Did you ever come across a school problem, especially in math, that uses a real-life context, but still didn’t make any sense?

What is this about? In this 6-minute video presentation, my colleague Marc-André Lalande presents his thoughts on the subject of “schoolisyzation” and how he thinks technology can help us improve our pedagogical practices. (Source: Marc-André Lalande, RECIT FGA Pedagogical Consultant, via r.u.aware blog)

Feedback: Comments? We really want to hear what you have to say! Please feel free to leave your comments on our blog with the “leave a comment” link below this post. Also, if YouTube is blocked in your school, you can view Marc-André’s original SlideRocket presentation from his r.u.aware blog...


ICT Tip: Royalty-free music for students to use in multimedia projects

November 15, 2011

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Links: www.jamstudio.com and www.incompetech.com

Quick overview: Websites that either allow students to create or download copyright free music for use in multimedia projects.

JamStudio: JamStudio.com allows students to cook up their own musical compositions to use in projects, even if your students aren’t musically inclined. It’s similar in concept to Apple’s Garage Band but everything is done through a web browser instead. A free educational account is required before using it with your students. (Source: Tammy Worcester, ISTE Philadelphia 2011)

Incompetech: If your students are simply looking for “ready to use” royalty-free music then send them to the Incompetech website. They can search for music by feel (moody, happy, dramatic, etc) or by genre. Listen and download the music for free, no fuss, no muss.. no catch! This is a great resource for iMovie, Movie Maker, or other ICT projects. Here is an example of an upbeat silent film piano score or a dramatic film score found on the site. For more information on copyright usage, see the FAQ section. (Source: Robert Miller, ISTE Philadelphia 2011)

Update November 22nd, 2011: I’ve received two additional (totally amazing!) royalty-free music sites from our readers Chris and Dano. Be sure to check out MusicRevolution and DanoSongs if you’re looking for some high quality tracks.

Some considerations: As I’ve mentioned in other posts, students can easily get caught up in creating the bells and whistles (i.e. – music) for a project when the main focus may be about developing language or other competencies. Try to remember to keep them on track. Last but not least, don’t worry about being an expert with either tool. There’s a good chance your tech savvy students will figure out how to insert the music into their projects on their own.


Video Tutorial: For more information on how to use these resources, click the video (3 minutes) link below:


ICT Tip: Dipity allows students to create media rich interactive timelines

November 1, 2011

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Link: www.dipity.com

Quick overview: Dipity helps students to create interactive timelines comprised of significant events. Each “event” on the timeline can be fleshed out by the student to include text, images, and video. Timelines can be set private, public, or collaborative.

How can it be used in the classroom: Instead of asking your students to memorize out-of-context historical dates, why not ask them to research and assemble their own interactive timeline instead? Furthermore, timelines need not be limited to events from ancient history. Instead, students could create a Dipity timeline that contains a breakdown of the various pieces leading up to a current event (i.e – political or economic situation) or they can even assemble a family history or bibliography. Here’s an example of a timeline created with Dipity.

Is it free? Yes, the Dipity website allows for free accounts with most functionality intact. One limitation with free accounts is that you can only create three timeliness per account, with 150 events per timeline. Regardless, that shouldn’t be a problem for most student work.

Video Tutorial: For a short video (3 minutes) on how to use Dipity, please click the play button below:


ICT Tip: Random Name Picker

October 18, 2011

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Link: classtools.net

Quick overview: A website that can randomly pick one of your students’ names to answer a question. Easy to use, only takes a few seconds to get up and running.

How does it work? Enter your students’ names manually or copy and paste your class list from a Word document. Either way, the Classtools website will randomly pick a student’s name, one at a time. While the site is designed with younger students in mind, I find the site is much more suitable to use with adult learners if you simply mute the silly sound effects by turning off your speakers. (Source: Tammy Worcester, ISTE 2011 Philadelphia conference)

Video Tutorial: For more information on how to use this this tool, click the (1 minute) video link below:


ICT Tip: Urlist allows you to line-up a list of websites before teaching your class

October 4, 2011

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Link: http://urli.st

Quick overview: Urlist is a website that allows you to store multiple website addresses you’d like to present in your upcoming class. Once class starts, you can simply jump to each website without having to type in complicated web addresses or sift through piles of bookmarks. This resource is similar to the furly website that we highlighted in a previous blog post, however urilst allows you to go back and edit previous lists or even make the lists collaborative for others to edit!

How can this be used in the classroom: If you regularly present different websites to your students, the urlist website can help things run more smoothly. Using the this website, you won’t have to scramble to type in long addresses (while your class waits!) or search through a huge list of bookmarks when presenting different websites to your class. An added bonus is that you can easily share the list of websites with your students after class (with a unique URL) so they can consult the list of websites at a later date. Alternatively, if a group of students share the “edit” link, they can create a collaborative list that they can all edit together. Even if you regularly use furly, this is a great backup site to have in your back pocket. Here’s an example of what a shared urlist. (Source: John Scammell, Zero Knowledge Proofs)

Video Tutorial: For a video (3 minutes) on how to use urlist, please click the play button below:


ICT Tip: Wolfram Alpha is a lot more than a search engine!

September 20, 2011

This ICT tip could be applied to the following subjects:

all

Link: www.wolframalpha.com

Quick overview: Like Google, Wofram Alpha works with keywords. However, Wolfram Alpha does a lot more than simply retrieve information from web pages. Instead, it creates a “custom fit” for you by assembling or calculating the information you’re looking for.

Can you give me some examples? If you type in the name of any two cities (i.e – Montreal and Ottawa) you’ll get a rich comparison between the two cities. If you type in the name of a food item (i.e – big mac) you’ll get a detailed breakdown of the nutritional information of that food. Best of all, if you type in a math equation (2x + 15 = 45) you’ll get a visual representation of the equation. You can even download the results or equations as PDF files!

I want to know more! Here is a great organized list of some other possible keyword combinations to try on Wolfram Alpha. In addition, here’s a link that explains how to use some of the more important features on Wolfram Alpha. (Source: Tammy Worcester, ISTE 2011 Philadelphia conference)


ICT Tip: Qwiki displays interactive multimedia presentations of any topic

September 6, 2011

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Link: www.qwiki.com

Quick overview: A website that displays encyclopedia articles in small “easy-to-digest” multimedia presentations. Encyclopedia articles are presented with a mix of spoken text, video, and images. All the information from Qwiki is obtained from Wikipedia.

How does it work? Like Wikipedia, students enter in keywords and find articles. The difference is that Qwiki automatically repackages the information into slick interactive mini-presentations. If desired, students can click on keywords while the presentations are running to dig deeper for more information. (Source: Tammy Worcester, ISTE 2011 Philadelphia conference)

How can it be used in the classroom? This tool could be used to help students that have trouble reading through long written articles or simply have trouble focusing their attention for long periods of time. Micheal Moore-Jones, a student from New Zealand put together a great blog post and testimonial of how Qwiki was used in his classroom. A interesting read, check it out!

Video Tutorial: For more information on how to use Qwiki, click the (1 minute) video link below:


ICT Tip: Today’s Meet creates a “backchannel” in your classroom

June 3, 2011

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Quick overview: Today’s Meet (www.todaysmeet.com) allows you to setup a “backchannel” for your audience or students while you are presenting or teaching.  It takes less than 1 minute to set up and can keep a record of discussions for up to 1 year.

What is a backchannel? A backchannel is basically a real-time “chat room” that your audience can participate in.  This discussion can also be projected on a screen or wall while you are teaching.  The idea behind such a tool is that participants can publicly ask questions without having to wait for a break or permission.  The backchannel displays comments or questions in the order they were typed.  Questions can be answered by the speaker (the teacher) or other audience members (students) creating a multi-tiered learning or meeting environment.  Keep in mind that participants must have access to the internet via computer or smartphone during the lecture.

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ICT Tip: Safeshare removes distractions around YouTube videos and even allows you to isolate and show the most relevant parts of the video!

May 18, 2011

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Link: www.safeshare.tv

Quick overview: Safeshare is a great site if you want to screen a video in your classroom, but don’t want your students to be distracted by other videos that pop-up on YouTube. It also allows you to highlight the most relevant part of the video by cropping out the parts that you don’t need to show. Easy to use, highly recommended!

How does it work? Using this site, you can share videos in the classroom without all the distracting or potentially inappropriate video thumbnails that typically appear alongside YouTube videos. With Safeshare, the YouTube video simply shows up by itself, surrounded by a plain gray background. As an added bonus, Safeshare easily allows you to “crop” videos before sharing or showing them to students. What this means you can share (or prepare in advance) a link for a YouTube video that starts or ends at any point you want. This way you can remove distracting intros or irrelevant content. Here’s an example of using Safeshare to show just one scene from the YouTube “Montreal in Two minutes” video.

Video Tutorial: For a short video on how to use Safeshare, please click the play button below:


ICT Tip: Wikisend and Filedropper – a simple and EASY way to share large files

May 11, 2011

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

all

Link: www.wikisend.com and www.filedropper.com

Quick overview: Two websites that allow you to easily share large files that are too big to include as e-mail attachments. Free!

What does it do? Wikisend and Filedropper allow you to upload very large files and then share them with a unique link. The best part is that no registration or anything else complicated is required. Simply upload your file from your computer and then share the link. Done!

How can it be used in the classroom? In addition to sharing large files, teachers can use these sites for sharing smaller files with their students. For example, teachers can can place a document on-line and then provide the same link to all the students. There’s no need to send out multiple e-mail attachments. Save trees and stop photocopying! Leave your USB keys at home!

What’s the difference? Filedropper allows you to upload files up to 5GB in size, but there’s no option to make the link private. In comparison, Wikisend is limited to files up to 100MB in size but you can choose to make the link private with a password, if desired.

What’s the verdict? Overall, I’d highly recommend using Wikisend over Filedropper. Wikisend’s interface is neater (a lot less questionable ads!) and there is no need for the student to enter in a captcha to download the file. In my opinion, the only reason to use Filedropper would be if you absolutely need to share a file larger than 100MB.

Video Tutorial: For a short video on how to use these two sites, click the play button below:


Voicethread – Let your voice be heard

March 30, 2011

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Link: http://www.voicethread.com

Quick overview: Voicethread is an online Web 2.0 tool that can be used as a way of holding group discussions around pictures or other media (videos and documents). Comments can be left by voice, text or video.  You can even leave a comment on a Voicethread page using your cellphone.  Creating an account is free and takes just a few minutes.

How does it work? A Voicethread can contain many pages and each of those pages can contain comments from you or others.  You can also share your voicethread with a few people or the whole world.  A voicethread page can hold almost countless comments.  There are literally hundreds of interesting and useful ways to use Voicethreads.  Once you create your account, several Voicethread tutorials are placed in your “My Voice” area for you to peruse.  To create a Voicethread, simply upload a few pictures, leave a short comment for each, choose how to share it and you are done!

How can it be used in the classroom? There are almost endless ways to use Voicethreads in the classroom.  They can be created by the teacher or by the student (they can have their own accounts or you can share a classroom one and use identities).  Here are just a few suggestions.

  • Have students present a project by creating a personal Voicethread.  Have other students peer review it through comments.
  • Upload a historical video and have students comment on what it means to them.
  • In an ESL/FSL classroom, upload short phrases and have students read it out loud in the comments.  An added benefit is that students also get to hear how others pronounce the same phrase.
  • Take pictures of an outing or field trip and have students comment on them.
  • Have students prepare a Voicethread of thankyou cards and share it with a guest speaker, parent or other person/organization that has helped your class.
  • For more ideas, check out the following link: http://voicethread.com/community/library/

Some considerations: It is important to remember that images used in Voicethreads are subject to the same copyright restrictions as any other site.  Students should make sure to use personal images or those distributed under the creative commons license. (See the following link to learn more about this).

Video Tutorial: For more information , click the play button below:

Link to Voicethread how-to video


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