Creating and sharing graphic organizers using Popplet

digital popplet2
Popplet is a great mind-mapping and graphic organizer tool to aid planning and writing. Not only can you add text to your graphic organizer but you can also add a variety of sketches, graphics and multimedia. Collaborating with multiple authors is easy through a shared link as your file is stored in the cloud. (The hidden notes page is great for assessment or feedback from you!) Finally, the presentation mode allows you to create and navigate through a path of views from one “popple” (box) to another through your arrow keys.

Here are a few screencasts I made, that you are welcome to use in your classes. Lots more available on YouTube.(without my squeeky voice through:P)

Creating an account in Popplet

Getting started in Popplet

Student sample –Gr.4 Canadian physical region http://popplet.com/app/#/311851
Gr.4 Muslim Influence on the Medieval Europe – http://popplet.com/app/#/812393
Diversity of Living Things – Educator sample http://popplet.com/app/#/901161

This software is available in Windows and iOS and recommended for students from Grade 4 and up.

Advertisements

Writing Reflective Blogs in Blackboard

One of the advantages of our password-protected Blackboard site is the option to create a safe place for students to write, collaborate, edit and share. Setting up a blog is a great option for assessing student writing in a simplified format (i.e. not for elaborate Word docs with graphics, interesting fonts choices and backgrounds etc.) and creating and organizing a digital collection of student writing. This blog option can be customized to be private between you and your student or visible to all students in the class or grade for reading, commenting or peer editing. This tool also eliminates the need for transferring documents from home to school using USB drives, email or other online means. Students can login into Blackboard, click on the link and begin writing immediately. You can give direct feedback as a comment and have full control to delete or edit anything posted by you or your students.

There are two steps. In the first video, I demonstrate how to set up the blog and in the second video I cover posting a link for student access.
1. Setting up a Blog in Blackboard

2. Posting a link for student access to the blog

P.S. Remember only student accounts (i.e. 11111) can access the blogs and not the observer parent account (i.e. chu1643)

My top 3 online curation tools for teachers and students

Traditionally as teachers, before we start a new topic or theme with our students, we collect a variety of educational resources (activities, worksheets, games, posters, models, songs etc.) to share in lessons or provide as resources for students in the classroom. Using technology, we can also provide multimedia and other interactive materials like graphics, slideshows, videos, files, websites, social media  accounts, hashtags etc. to enhance learning in our classroom and perhaps beyond. It would seem then that collecting a variety of traditional and digital materials would be an effective strategy to differentiate learning for students and appeal to our classes full of “screenagers” but not quite teenagers.

Here are three sites to help teachers curate educational digital content for discussion, resources and sharing with students. In online courses or blended environments, variety is important to help the visuals interesting while creating vibrant, diverse and educational rich experiences remain vital. All are useful in flipped classrooms too! All these sites are perfect for sharing by a link but work best when “embedded” directly into an online course/LMS like Blackboard or Moodle.

1. Symbaloo 
One online tool allows you to create a web page of links (as symbols) to sites on specific  theme or topic. (I find that the more specific, the better; (Grade 2 Time rather than Math.) Your symbaloo can be shared to students (or parents) as a link through email, Blackboard, Twitter etc. Your symbaloo page might be filled with links to websites but could also include links to graphics (from Google images), videos (from YouTube), even files (I used a link to a file in Google Drive) or any material with a specific URL.

Below is a link to a symbaloo I created for Grade 4-6 students to practice their keyboarding skills using a variety of tools.

keyboarding symbaloo
http://www.symbaloo.com/mix/keyboardingresources1

2. Edcanvas

Edcanvas is a website for collecting and assembling a variety of media (images, Word docs, Power Point, videos etc.) as a single presentation/webquest for students. Your “edcanvas” can be shared by email or posted on an LMS like Blackboard. Older students (Gr.4 and up) might create their own “edcanvas” to research and presentation their learning on a particular topic.

Here is one I made for a Social Studies/ICT project in Grade 5.

http://edcvs.co/XJuKkl

3.  Live Binders is one of three excellent websites (Symbaloo, Edcanvas being the others)  to help you collect, curate and present a variety of digital resources for students. Teachers have used Live Binders to build up a collection of images, resources and links on a specific topic. Students (perhaps Gr.5 and up) might also create an account and have their own Live Binder(s) for individual or collaborative research and presentation. Finally, the final product is easily shared with students (and parents) through our LMS (Learning Management System) AKA Blackboard, or email, Twitter etc.

Live Binders for Teachers


Featured Live Binders
(check out the ‘Binders by Grade (scroll down on right of the screen)

http://www.livebinders.com/shelf/featured

Honourable Mention: to MentorMob for the ability to create learning playlists. Next on my list to investigate. Thanks in advance for your comments and suggestions.
~Anthony

Voice Thread with one iOS device or a full lab

vt logo
Once I decide (by hunch or “crunch” from my PLN ) that I am willing to try a particular ed. tech. tool, I immediately start my testing process. As an ICT specialist, I find myself exploring a breadth of digital tools. However, a real depth of knowledge is critical for evaluating whether a tool is effective for a specific age and stage, suitable for curriculum integration and promotes 21st century fluency. One strategy for exploring a resource with depth is to integrate the tool with learning as much as possible over the course of a term with a variety of ages, groups and situations. That way I can really get a handle on its potential and limitations. Over the last year, I have been exploring Glogster EDU, Bitstrips for Schools, Popplet (all great BTW and worthy of review) but this term Voice Thread has definitely been my software of choice. (Ok full disclosure, I recently gained access to the Voice Thread admin. tools which was a huge advantage.) Switching between the app on my IPhone and software on a computer has been an excellent “one-two punch” for creating and recording projects, research and learning.

Voice Thread with One iOS device

Circulating the class with my IPhone, I quickly and easily recorded students’ thoughts, ideas and research in the “hustle and bustle” of the classroom. This term, our Grade 1 and 2 students researched specific topics (animals, mapping etc.) on the computer using the excellent Pebble Go site. As I was circulating, I was able to stop, take a quick screenshot or a picture of their collaboration in action and then record audio of them with my smartphone. Some students shared original ideas but other simply read their research which was an excellent way to record their ideas and learning. This collection of thoughts, ideas and collaboration was not only a good source for sharing but also an effective assessment tool. Listening to their progress allowed me to easily analyze their progress. This recorded information was available to be played for me or the students in the next class so I can extend their learning and cover areas that were missed or not explored in depth. What a great record of informal and formal assessment!

Here is an example. (We have a strict privacy policy at our school so the example is only screenshots and voices. Although not shown I recommend using photos of the students to really bring projects to life.)

Voice Thread for Students

We purchased a subscription for students and I introduced this software in our computer lab to our Grade Three students. We had great fun creating avatars, recording using microphones, webcams and sharing ideas. After a couple of classes to explore built-in tutorials and some specific screencasts from me, students were familiar with the interface and we began to use VT to collect and record our research on the Titanic. VT is an excellent and superior 21st century tool, that allowed us to record student ideas, research, questions and collaborations. Eventually, it became an authentic document and record of student learning and ideas with potential for further study either as an assessment tool or just a fun presentation for parents, students who know the students well.

Last year was the 100th anniversary of the crash and so our school had many activities related the centenary of the disater. It was SO popular and educationally rich we continued with research with this year’s Grade Three (We called it Titanic 2 the sequel!)

Here is our collected research on the Titanic. (This is the non-webcam version to preserve the safety of the students.)
titanic screenshot

I also asked our Grade Five students to create a short “how-to” project using Voice Thread to show their expertise on a topic. My other goal was for them to familiarize themselves with the interface prior to a major research project later in the term.

Here was my Introductory Voice Thread.

Here is an example from one of the students. (Again, I disabled all the webcam clips but hopefully, this will provide some ideas of our progress so far…)
More formal projects were to follow. This year students are studying Ancient China.

Commenting in VT

Commenting is probably the most important feature in VT to transform traditional one-way multimedia presentations into interactive and collaborative research presentations. Users can add a comment by typing, recorded audio, uploaded audio or record using a webcam. With my Grade 5’s, I asked them to create and upload a slide using PowerPoint for students to provide feedback. I also included commenting as part of my rubric to encourage them to make positive contributions to the ideas of others. (see below) I like Tony Wagner’s ideas on this. He provide these suggestions for peer editing “Be kind, be specific, be helpful and give steps” from his The Global Achievement Gap book.

Other resources and tips for using VT

1. Use Avatars for their identities

Ask students to add a cartoon representation of themselves. It provides a personal touch to your projects without giving away any privacy.

mrc.2
Here is a quick list of websites on creating an Avatar.

1. Bitstrips for School (need an account) 2. Lego 3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid 4. The Simpsons 5. Nintendo Mii

2. Upload Power Point slides

The page templates are the perfect size and are excellent for title pages, bibliographies and collages of pictures. When viewing VT’s in the presentation, the hourglass option allows users to zoom in. Perfect for collage but try to use high res. photos.

3. Use high resolution pictures 

This depends on your audience but expect to use photos at 800 x 600 pixels minimum. You can display the project in a small window but fullscreen is the best. (Go big or go home as the saying goes.)

4. Use identities in creative ways

Students came up with creative uses which were amazing including using different identifities for different character or “experts” in their project. i.e. Now let’s hear from Confucius talk about…) or having a quiz on a page with 2 identifities to represent a sound effect for “right” and another sound for “wrong”.

5. Create a feedback slide

After the projects and presentations, students were encouraged to leave a helpful comment on a specific page in their Voice Thread.
vt dog feedback

Overall, Voice Thread performed very well in a variety of situations (class, lab, groups, pairs, whole class teaching etc.) and with various devices (desktop, laptop, smartphone and tablet.) The free app and account make it an essential addition to a teacher’s smartphone (only IPhone or IPad currently) for recording student learning, progress, ideas and collaborations. Our language teachers really loved this tool as they could easily share audio recording and use devices to record student progress for evaluation.

Further Questions

How is this software being used to enhance learning and 21st Century skills?

Prior to using Voice Thread, students researched and wrote for the teacher as the primary audience. With VT, students created a vibrant record of inquiries, questions and learning. The best moments occured when students posed questions about the topics without prompting and the other students responded. This record of facts, opinions and conversations was dynamic and could then be shared to a wider audience within school community including students, parents and teacher through our LMS (Blackboard).

What steps did use to protect the identity of students in this online digital tools?
Voice Thread encourages students to upload a picture to represent themselves when commenting. Instead of a photo, students were asked to create an avatar as way to identify themselves withour giving up any privacy. See my above example from Bitstrips but there are many fun options for students to create safe avatars. (see above)

Next Steps

Consider using he same Titanic presentation with comments for the next year’s group so that students can build upon the knowledge gained from the prior year’s students. However, I’m wondering is that is too much pressure on students to come up with new ideas? Perhaps a new topic would be better choice…

Why “Flipteaching” complements Scratch programming

ScratchCat-Large

What is Scratch?

Scratch is a free, visual and kid-friendly programming language where anyone can create fun projects and computer programs. Students snap blocks together (think Lego) to move and/or modify objects, sprites and backgrounds. Pressing the flag runs the program and the fun (or de-bugging) begins!

Why are you using Scratch in your class?

My first experience with Scratch was at the 2008 ECOO conference in Richmond Hill where I heard MIT Professor and pioneer of Lego Mindstorms, Mitch Resnick demonstrate his new Scratch software in a keynote presentation. (His TED talk is below.) I had been teaching programming in my Grade Four and Five Technology classes with other tools but instantly liked the user-friendly Scratch interface. It seemed perfect for beginners but also included more advanced programming ideas like loops and broadcasting. What made Scratch even more interesting to me was the vibrant database of projects shared by authors, ready to be “re-mixed” and “re-imagined” around the globe. I felt that students of any ability could explore Scratch projects, acknowledge their source and remix them. I strategized that their experiences in class would be an excellent “jumping off” point for future programming and tinkering. (This has proved to be true but not surprising with this generation of 21st century learners and tinkers!)

How did a “flipped” approach benefit your students?

This unit was perfect for “flipping” because all the students had different levels of experience in programming. Students were asked to prepare for class by watching videos on my YouTube playlist or our LMS (Blackboard) and then be prepared to create in lessons. Some were content to copy a program from a “recipe” handout with little modifications. Others opted to “re-mix” the program of others while some were keen to create and innovate on the own. I personally felt that ALL these approaches had merit and therefore, decided quickly that I would keep “whole class teaching moments” to minimum (I’m sure the kids didn’t mind that much!) Beyond the usual class management and directing students to all the resources available them, (see below) most classes were dedicated to students working on a personal or collaborative projects.

What resources did you provide for students?
Video Tutorials from the Scratch website – quick projects to help students get started
My YouTube playlist – a collection of instructional videos from easy to more advanced (and fun! Pac-Man anyone?) Student’s contributed with ideas and suggestions for the playlist so I could “whitelist” for use at school. (We use YouTube Edu.) Students often partnered up with one student playing, rewinding and pausing the YouTube clip while the other copied the programming technique in Scratch.
A collection of Programming “recipes” were offered as printouts
Various displays and posters
scratchdisplay1 scratch2

How did you assess their learning?

Assessment FOR learning – Some excellent screencasts and short tasks were used after a few classes to inform future lessons and planning. (sample) Designed by Colin Meltzer
Assessment AS learning – Handout for students provided near the end of the unit to reflect and share their best project.
Assessment OF learning – Ten question quiz using Senteo clickers to test for basic fluency.

Next steps and questions for further study

How will an update to the web-based Scratch 2.0 affect lessons and projects?
Should students present and share their programs to audience beyond peers? younger students?
Are there any new resources, recipes and approaches I can use with this unit?
How can I expand Scratch and other programming opportunities in Grade 5 and 6?

Video resources for further research

What is Scratch?

Mitch Resnik’s TED talk – Let’s teach kids to code

Other resources and helpful articles
Scratch website
ScratchEd – sign up is worth it for learning resources, how-to guides and connecting with other educators and professionals
Wes Fryer’s Blog post – Introducing 4th and 5th Graders to Scratch Software Possibilities
Erin Klein’s Blog post – Computer Coding for Kids!
Michael’s Badger Blog post – Scratch Beginner’s Guide – used a few of the questions for assessment ideas

Overall, this programming unit is a popular one with the Grade 4 students in my ICT classes as it is fun, challenging, collaborative, creative, student-centered and perfect for a flip-teach approach as students have unique interests and levels of programming experiences. I look forward to learning new ideas and programs from others but most especially the students.

2 min. tech. tip – flipsnack is a cool tool to display student work

flips
As a teacher, I find that there is nothing better than sharing projects from students at the end of term or unit. Not only that, students love seeing their work published whether in a book, website or bulletin board.

One tool I love for sharing is called Flipsnack as this site allows you to create a digital flipbook from any .pdf file. You can either scan documents through our printer as a .pdf or create .pdf’s yourself (i.e. in Word save as a .pdf etc.) Their “Flipsnack” creations can then be shared by a URL or embedded in a web site, blog, wiki or LMS (like our blackboard). Also good to note that there is 15 page maximum for each “free” book. However, my work-around is to create two books for each project and display both the links.

Here is an example from a few Grade Three students.

Another example from the flipsnack team.

The other “snack tools” are excellent too. Here are links for photosnack – an online slideshow creator, filesnack – a quick and easy file sharing service and their newest tool: snack websites – for a high quality website creator. All are free and I think are well-designed.

Doing my best so you’re on the cutting edge!

Mindshift – Our Action Research on Creativity and Collaboration skills

Two years of research, collaboration and hard work came to a satisfying conclusion on April 25th 2012 as our Action Research team presented our findings to colleagues and guests on enhancing collaboration and creativity for the 21st Century learner.  We attended seminars, workshops and received expert guidance from colleagues our Ontario Institute  for Studies in Education OISE professors to help us frame our action research. What an excellent experience to work, learn create and collaborate with my team and variety of experts!

We concluded that best practice would be to allow students  opportunties to collaborate and work individually for ALL project-based learning . Our research and reading indicated that creativity is enhanced by conversations and interactions but students do need time to work out ideas individually. Projects should not be either individual or collaborative but both in order to flourish.

Greg Graham, “The best thinking occurs when students work alone but share together.”

The original “GroupThink” article

Here are the tools used:

Grade Two: Kerpoof.com

Grade Three: Voice Thread


Our Grade Three project on the Titanic
https://voicethread.com/book.swf?b=2946551

Grade Four: Bitstrips for Schools

Grade Five: Wikispaces

Our Grade Five Digital Storytelling project: http://l5bstory.wikispaces.com/

What is Action Research?
Richard Sagor’s The Action Research Guidebook

Sharing Student work digitally

As a teacher, there is nothing better than sharing projects from students on the web. They love showing off their hard work and feel validated that their sweat and tears (hopefully not that many!) have an audience beyond the teacher with the proverbial “red pen” at the ready! In addition, I avoid projects that give away any information about the student. Our school has a LMS (Blackboard) and we created a section in each student’s course to showcase their work and progress. This password protected area is an excellent place to showcase student success and achievement.  In our Junior division, we have taken it a step further by having each student create a “blogfolio” which combines elements of a digital portfolio and allows students to learn the basics of comments and online discussions with student work as a focus.

My latest tool for sharing is called Flipsnack and this free service creates a digital flipbook from any .PDF file. In training sessions, I have encouraged our teachers to either scan documents through our printer as a .PDF or create .PDF’s  (i.e. saving a Word etc.) Their “Flipsnack” creations can then be shared by a URL or embedded in a web site, blog, wiki or LMS. Also good to note that there is 15 page maximum for each “free” book. However, it ended up creating two books for each project per class.

A good tutorial from the HP Teacher Exchange.

Here is an example of some Pioneer buildings created by 8 years old using a software called Community Construction Kit.
http://files.flipsnack.com/iframe/embed.html?hash=4fea183fbf57ad3e9e4257dd9q637433&wmode=window&bgcolor=EEEEEE&t=1324404609
http://snack.to/oynRtz

Overall, the feedback has been great and Flipsnack has joined my collection of sharing apps including Google Docs, Picasa, Photo Story or Windows Live Movie Maker.  Happy sharing!

Educational Video and Multimedia

When used sparingly and strategically, video is a helpful medium to teach concepts and ideas to our 21st century students. I have used video clips to introduce a topic, review a set of instructions, explain a concept using multimedia or narrative or even demonstrate exemplary work or progress from students in prior years.

Personally, I try to limit clips to 5 -10 minutes at the most so that I can check-in with students to test their comprehension, address any issues and answer any questions. Planning BEFORE the video begins is crucial to prepare and engage all students. I find that giving students a list of things to look for or asking a higher order question (How effective is the consequence for the cyberbully in this clip?) “Clickers” or on-line polls can also provide an excellent way to test individual comprehension and facilitate  student engagement before, during and after a short clip. Here is a good example using SMART response clickers!

While YouTube is still my go-to resources for video content , is not easily searchable for appropriate and educationally rich videos for students. Thankfully, there are other sites where you can search by grade, subject, media kind etc. Here are my top 5 websites for K-12 educational clips. All are free except the fifth choice which requires a paid subscription. However, it was added to the Google Apps marketplace and the free ipad app is my son’s favourite for learning new ideas in a fun and kid-friendly way.

1. PBS Learning Media Site – new, 14,000+ videos searchable by grade, subject, media etc.

2. WatchKnowLearn – excellent search capabilities, over 50000 educational videos, 3000 topics

3. Harcourt media – Science videos for Grade 1 to 6

4. Khan Academy – Math and Science videos (best for junior and intermediate students)*

5. BrainPop – kid-friendly educational videos and activities on a variety of subjects

For more video resources you can visit the “Cybraryman” pages for a very comprehensive list.
http://cybraryman.com/videos.html

Last Final tip…to avoid bandwidth or connection issues, teaching is a live show I always say…the best planning is to download and save the video BEFOREHAND. I find a offline copy in case of bandwidth or connection issues. Sites like keepvid.com or saveyoutube.com are perfect for saving videos from the internet

My top 3 graphic organizers for students

We have found Inspiration and Kidspiration useful at our school but recently there has been a substantial growth of web-based (and free!) mind-mapping and graphic organizer tools. Here are a few tools to aid writing, planning, organization and the development of 21st Century skills.

1. Popplet – a Prezi-like graphic organizer and mind-mapping tool that is an excellent platform for students to demonstrate their learning. The presentation mode is similar to Prezi and useful for students to present their ideas in larger maps. Students must create an account to save their maps. Files can be shared as images files (.jpg or .gif) or embedded into a website or wiki.

Continue reading