Friday, June 26, 2009

Inukshuk on VoiceThread

VoiceThread is a fascinating tool! The user posts a photo or a slideshow of photos. Then he or she comments on the photo, with text, audio recording (called in over a phone), or video from a webcam. The creator's picture appears on the left; click on it to hear the dialogue. With VoiceThread, anyone can comment, either by text, audio or video. Each commenter is represented with a picture, right or left. Not only is this a slideshow with audio, it's a conversation--sort of like a wiki with audio and video, and it can be done from a cell phone. Some that were interesting:
  • Students in a lit circle added comments about their book.
  • A participant at an edtech conference took a photo of himself at the conference with a speaker, then invited others to add their comments on the spot.
  • After showing a video, a teacher asked her students to give their reaction to the video on a variety of stills from the film. Sharing seems to be disabled on this one.
I choose to embed the one below because it's an intriguing way to use VoiceThread. Graham Wegner of Australia asks a question to anyone in Alaska. A viewer in Canada answers. Perhaps the next time I check this VoiceThread others from around the world will have added their responses.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Free Web Tools for Schools

This slideshare presentation is packed with free web tools and includes brief suggestions and samples of their use. Includes tools for presentations, photo editing, video conferencing, bookmarking, , video and audio sharing, online collaboration, wikis, blogs, mind mapping, online books and more! Slideshare itself is a great free web tool for sharing your PowerPoint etc. presentations with others.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wild Card Search with Google *

Use a wild card search when you can use any term between your key words. For example, I'd like to find a favorite movie or book for a teen. Enter the search terms favorite * for teens. I use this TeacherTube video by "Renesadae" for my "Better Search" unit with middle school. Click the title of this post for a link to posters for your class about how to search.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Online Quiz maker throw down!

I investigated two online test-creating and grading tools: QuizStar and ClassMarker. Both offer time-savers for teachers and instant feedback for students. Both allow the teacher to manage class lists and register students. Tests or quizzes can be saved, even shared with another instructor. Quizzes can be duplicated in order to create different versions. Questions can be framed as multiple choice or true/false, can be displayed with an image, or written in different languages. The instructor can set a time limit for the test. Students can see their score immediately after taking the test, in points and percentage. If the instructor allows it, the student can review each question to see the correct answer and points for each. Tests are automatically graded (that’s the best part) and scores are available to the teacher.
Now the differences: ClassMarker gives you all of the above for free! QuizStar costs $24.50 for 6 months, $39 for a year. For that price, QuizStar will also give an analysis of the scores by class, student or question in Excel format. ClassMarker provides analysis too in their “Pro” version (also in Excel), which costs $24.95 per year. For the extra 50¢, ClassMarker not only gives an extra 6 months, but provides some other useful features. In the “Pro” version, ClassMarker will email results to the instructor. ClassMarker has a setting that will randomize the question order, making it harder to copy your neighbor while taking the test in the computer lab. The free text question (fill-in-the-blank) allows the instructor to list up to 10 acceptable responses. QuizStar allows free text too, but these must be graded by the instructor and the scores adjusted manually. I took ClassMarker’s sample quiz. It was easy to read, with A, B, C, etc., listed in a column on the left. QuizStar’s answer choices are listed in a row underneath the question, which I think is a bit harder to follow. The look and feel of the test on ClassMarker was sleek; QuizStar seemed a bit old-fashioned by comparison.
Online tests can serve as study guides. Students that have Internet access at home can take the quiz to prepare for an in-class test. Quizzes can be assigned as homework, either for a grade, or as a review. The great thing is that there is a record of the students who reviewed and those who did not. If your classroom has “clickers” (hand-held input devices that communicate with an interactive whiteboard), you probably won’t use these test tools during class time. But if you don’t, and your class has access to computers to take tests, online tests are awesome. Teachers who do not have access to computers or Internet in their classroom may want to get the free ClassMarker account for the ease of creating a clean-looking test that can be printed.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Confidence and the Future

Fun, exciting, colorful, engaging--this is summit of “Lesson Plan Peak.” The ideal lesson is not only an activity that carries new skills and concepts for the students, but also one that helps create a love for learning. Here’s what comes to my mind: finger-painting. Our kindergarten teacher prepared us, handing out special paper and aprons. Pots of paint waited on the broad tables. At last we could dive in. I remember the cool paint, the sunny room, and the lines my fingers made on the paper, streaks of dark and light.
As a computer teacher, I’d like my own lessons to be a memorable as finger painting, but how can mere machines compete with pots of paint? The first time I taught 4th grade how to insert a picture into a document I was stunned. An excited buzz filled the air and they abandoned chairs to see their classmates’ work. At the end of the period, a few students forgot their pencil cases, but no one forgot the color printout.
I don’t teach how to insert a picture into a paragraph for its own sake. I know that by the time my 4th graders students leave college, the process of manipulating text and images will have changed. I hope that the skills of giving commands to a machine in order to express an idea in words and color will empower them. According to Ed Barlow, by 2010, technical information will double every 72 hours! Whether this is precisely true I can't say, but I know that the information technology my 4th graders will be using in 2021 will bear little resemblance to the 10-year-old computers we use today. We must employ technology in education today, so they will have the confidence to explore, creating things that I can’t yet imagine.