Saturday, April 30, 2011

8 Ways to Support Teachers Integrate Technology

A collaboration between Good and Kiss Me I'm Polish, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.



Implementing Effective Technological Change: What a Classroom Teacher needs
1. Many teacher’s discoveries of how to use Web 2.0 tools and new applications occur when they are simply trawling the net for new and innovative teaching strategies. Teachers need more time to discover; discover new Web tools, discover new websites, discover new delivery methods.  One tool or resource by itself is often limiting but when you combine it with another, and sometimes another again, the resulting classroom activity can have a profound effect on learning outcomes 
2. Teachers need opportunities for innovative learning projects to be discussed and planned.  They need feedback from colleagues on what they are doing successfully in the classroom.  They need opportunities to deconstruct a unit; identify weaknesses and develop existing strengths.  Teachers need a chance to brainstorm and evaluate better delivery methods and more efficient use of the available technology. 
3. Teachers need opportunities to share technology learnings. What works in large classes?  What do your students like?  What technology do you have access to?  I have heard about that tool but how do you actually incorporate it into a unit?  What are your favourite tech tools?  Can you teach me how to use that?  How do you find appropriate tools to achieve solid learning outcomes?  How do you go about developing your units of work that are technology rich?
4. Teachers need time with colleagues to workshop practical strategies for classroom activities; How to engage your students.  What size groups achieve the best results? What strategies do you use for organising group work?  What not to do next time? How to get around difficulties.  How do you ensure equality of workload in collaborative learning environments?
5. Teachers need time to assimilate new concepts, like student involvement in unit development.  They need to discuss the notion of students as teachers. What did the students think helped them learn?  What activities did they like?  What activities taught them new skills?  What would they do if they were the teacher?  How might they have set up the assessment tasks?  What Web 2 tools would they suggest to meet the stated outcomes?  Teachers need the chance to have pedagogical discussion with their students.
6. We all need to develop simple effective ways to involve other staff at our schools.  How do we share the load?  How have you got other staff excited about incorporating technology?  How do we continue to support them in this journey?  How do we provide a positive environment to encourage further experimentation with pedagogy?  AND, How do we capture the recalcitrant?
7. We all need to continue to develop resources that introduce effective technology to our staff.  Teachers love technology cheats sheets.  How to use Prezi in the Classroom?  How to use Podcasting to promote social values?  Making History interesting with Digital timelines?  These are often constructed by enthusiastic teachers and then passed around.  Why do we all re-invent the wheel?  A central bank of these in your district or region would make so much more sense.  We all just contribute one each from our own area of expertise.
8. I find that very few new teachers are really aware of the effective use of Web 2.0 tools when they come out of university.  In fact some have hardly even heard the term Web 2.0. Experienced teaching staff need to introduce starting teachers to these ideas to foster greater learning and support.  We need to be insisting that these ideas of collaborative online learning and innovative web based tools be taught at all Universities.  We need to keep blooding the new, young staff member into the online habitat that our students now live.  We should be continually identifying innovative and talented people to ensure that they receive the appropriate in-servicing and support to move forward with enthusiasm and energy.





Friday, April 29, 2011

Using Web 2.0 Tools in Schools



I love the notion of Web 2.0 tools. These tools allow my students, family and friends to produce all types of creative artifacts. You can create digital timelines which include video and photographs, you can document the family tree on geneaological sites or you can create a multimedia presentations on a long dead personality or artist. Web 2 tools have allowed us to create and then share these artifacts using social networking sites, wikis or even our own website. We can use Web 2 tools to voice an opinion or debate an issue, we can buy or even review products we have bought online on an e-commerce site, and for the most part these things are free. Sometimes learning is part of the interactive process that occurs.
It always surprises me when I hear teachers commenting on the fact that a Web 2 Tool has started to charge. It is as though these companies should be offering these services for free out of some sense of altruism. We are happy to use these products to;
  • improve the learning of our students
  • create engaging learning spaces
  • allow students ownership of text and ideas
  • create work of increasing complexity and
  • reach an authentic audience.
But can we really complain when we have to pay for access to these same products? 
The Web 2.0 Misconception:
We as educators have the benefit of these free products while they are under the Beta Testing phase. In a way we have access to these tools for free because we are providing a service for these companies - we (the collective users) conduct their Beta testing for them. The bugs in the coding, the glitches in the system or the problems with embedding are all ironed out during this phase. We, as the Beta users benefit from this symbiotic relationship with an extended free trial.

O
ur Online Integration:
Some of these web based tools are exceptionally good applications. They have been designed to allow collaboration, include chat facilities and even email notifications or RSS feeds. They have been developed with easy to use interfaces that people can navigate through without the need for further skill development. Some have features that allow you to connect, use or integrate with other Web tools. In short many have become an everyday tool that people have incorporated into their online routines. 
Web 2.0 Solution:
I can think of half a dozen Web 2 tools that have gone pay-to-use in the last twelve to eighteen months; Inspiration, Xtranormal, Ning and in the last week or so Webspiration. There has been on ongoing discussion on education blogs and websites like Learnitin5 about whether teachers would continue to us Ning now that you have to pay for it.  Many teachers have already found alternatives like Moodle, Edmodo or Drupal. This is how many people deal with these commercial decisions, they find the next alternative. 
This is an important point for us as educators. It is not about teaching our students how to use a particular application. The application is just the vehicle for the learning. We are providing them with the skills to evaluate the tools available and to use the one most appropriate for the job. We are teaching our students how to think independently, how to research cleverly, where to locate salient and reliable information, how to decode the information and then to present it in such as way that it reinterprets those elements that are the focus of our inquiry. We do not need a Ning for this, we need the spirit of collaboration, we need an attitude of shared responsibility, we need a classroom where the learning occurs when students feel confident enough to fail. 
We need to treat Web 2 tools like they treat us; we use them until they are longer appropriate and then we find another one, and we do this in the spirit of adventure and change. We do this because each new tool that comes along does something more than the last, allows us to collaborate in new ways or combines existing technology in a way that we had not thought possible.

So the next time that your favourite Web 2 tool moves to pay-to-use, find an alternative, test out it's limitations, list it's advantages, get your students to see how they can mash it with other Web 2 tools and then share it with the rest of us.
Some alternatives:



Ning
Elgg,
BuddyPress 
LovdbyLess
Spruz, 
SocialGo

Webs, 
WackWall, 
Grou.ps, 
Grouply
BigTent, 
Zerista, 
Groupsite, 
SocialGo
Xtranormal
Stage’D
Kerpoof
Flixtimes
Muvizu

Goanimate
ToonDoo
Voki
Animasher
DoInk
Memoov
Webspiration
Wisdomap
Mindmeister
Mind42
Mindnode
Mindomo
Bubbl.us
Cacoo
Exploratree
Wisemapping





Thursday, April 28, 2011

Books vs E-books






PhotoSynth

This is my new favourite Web 2 tool. It is an opportunity to get the students into a real situation, to get a feel for an environment or to feel as though they are interacting with the buildings, landscape or archeological site. This is a tool that takes a series of photographs and stitches them together to create a virtual room or scene. There are so many Photosynth already created that you can easily embed into your own blog or class website. The history teacher at our school was super impressed with the different Photosynths of Rome. She will be using them to give her ancient history class an insight into the scale and detail of many of the major building left around the old town centre.

I can think of so many ways to use this with my students.

  • virtual art gallery tours
  • online historical buildings excursions
  • battle sites from history
  • street tours of famous villages or towns
  • archeological dig sites tours
These Photosynth could even be used for classroom tours for parents or even school tours on your website.

The best thing about these options is they give me the impetus to revisit some of my favourite places to create my Photosynth. It also make me extremely aware of how I present my own classroom and how that







Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Infographic - How Social Media is Changing Education

A great infographic about Social Media from Edudemic.com - Connecting Education and Communication.






Braille Punch Sticker - Student's with Vision Impairment

This is strictly speaking not a Web 2.0 Tool but is so useful and cool for teachers of students with vision impairment it was included here.



The Braille Punch Sticker reminds me of the Label Maker we saw two years ago. Like all processes, innovation sometimes comes in refinements. This one comes in a sleeker package, no cumbersome wheel and an easy punching mechanism. What remains the same is the sticker aspect. Neat!




HistoryPin

This is a great little tool for a whole range of subjects, from Ancient and Modern History, to Art, to even Science or Geography. I can think of so many ways of using this tool. I like the fact that you can compare the new photographs with older one.

It is an great for social evaluation of neighbourhoods as well. Has it developed appropriately? Is the neighbourhood better or worse? What factor contribute to this?

Imagine being able to have a look at a street scene from the time of the Battle of Britain or Germany after the War. This tool has a huge potential in education.






Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fromelles Project - Authentic E-Learning



This is an excellent example of using appropriate technology to enhance learning outcomes in a classroom.

The students from Year 9 at St Mary's Cathedral College study WW1 as part of their History curriculum. During the time of their unit a group of amateur historians uncovered the remains of Australian soldiers killed at Fromelles in 1916. One of the teachers at the school had been aware of this development and decided that they would research some of the soldiers identified from DNA results. 

The students used the Australian History Unit, Descendant's Database, Picture Australia and Commonwealth War Graves Commission as a major part of their research. They followed leads and found references to their soldiers with great detective skills. It was amazing how much information these young students were able to locate on the web. The boys then presented their research as movies and uploaded them to Vimeo.

A beautiful and personally powerful experience for the boys was made even more poignant when family members of the soldiers saw copies of the movies.

As an added bonus some of the videos were shown at the Fromelles Ceremony at which the last of the soldiers discovered in the fields was officially reburied with full military honours and in front of many of the families and decendants of the WW1 soldiers.

The Lost Diggers of Fromelles Ning


This is where the students of St Mary's Cathedral College meet to explore the lives of those men who have become known as "The Lost Diggers of Fromelles'. 

Throughout 2010 the students from their Year 9 History classes created video profiles of a number of the soldiers who had been listed as missing following the Battle of Fromelles in 1916.

A small group of students created profiles for the Commemoration Ceremony in France in July. This was a great honour and the video profiles were very well received.
During Term 3 all Year 9 students participated in the project. In pairs they worked to bring a number of the soldiers' stories back to life and pay tribute to these courageous men who had been buried at Pheasant Wood for almost a century. The videos can be found on our College Vimeo Channel.






This is a project that was obvious a labour of love and when you hear Michael Burden (the history teacher leading the class) talk about the planning and implementation of the research task he is very humble and talks more about the motivation and technical assistance he received from the students and his IT unit. It was fantastic to hear the boys themselves speak about the project and how it made each of the men real to them, and then how that in turn changed their notions of history and war.

The use of online internet research, iMovie, GarageBand and Vimeo was put together in such a way that it not only provided the most appropriate platform to showcase the student's learning but also provided the intrinsic motivation for the students to become capable,confident and independent learners





Monday, April 25, 2011

Infographics - Own your Information

I am a Visual Arts teacher, just so you might start to understand my next comment.

I love good Infographics !


I can not think of another technique that condenses the essence of a message down into a more accessible and easily understood medium. I love the way that;

- the graphic can be the of hero the story
- simple images can tell complicated stories
- the combination of graphics and facts can explain a   complex concept
- facts and figures can be portrayed in an exciting and visually appealing way
- the portrayal of the information becomes as important as the message
    Sometimes I think it is this last point that interests me the most. I said once before that I would never present my students with a worksheet or e-textbook that I did not find visually stimulating. I have also stated that one of my objectives is to get my students to consider how they present information for their audience - if it look unappealing why would anyone what to read it. I have included a slideshow of some beautiful Infographics produced by a number of talented graphic designers.


    I have started to get my own students to think about presenting certain information in this format. We have had some basic success, so I decided to find some tools that would allow us to make professional looking infographics. I found a great post over at MakeUseOf called 10 Awesome Free Tools To Make Infographics put together by Angela Alcorn.

    10 Awesome Free Tools To Make Infographics:
    infographicsInformation graphics, visual representations of data known as infographics, keep the web going these days. Web users, with their diminishing attention spans, are inexorably drawn to these shiny, brightly coloured messages with small, relevant, clearly-displayed nuggets of information. They’re straight to the point, usually factually interesting and often give you a wake-up call as to what those statistics really mean.

    Who can resist a colourful, thoughtful venn diagram anyway? In terms of blogging success, infographics are far more likely to be shared than your average blog post. This means more eyeballs on your important information, more people rallying for your cause, more backlinks and more visits to your blog. In short, a quality infographic done well could be what your blog needs right now.

    Designing An Infographic
    • Some great tips for designing infographics:
    • Keep it simple! Don’t try to do too much in one picture.
    • Decide on a colour scheme.
    • Research some great facts and statistics.
    • Think of it as a visual essay: ensure your arguments hold and are relevant.
    • Remember that it’s all about quickly conveying the meaning behind complex data.
    • Draw conclusions.
    • Reference your facts in the infographic.
    • Include your URL so people can be sure who made it.
    infographics

    Ideas for infographic formats include:
    • Timelines;
    • Flow charts;
    • Annotated maps;
    • Graphs;
    • Venn diagrams;
    • Size comparisons;
    • Showing familiar objects or similar size or value.
    Creating Your Infographic
    • Plan and research.
    • If required, use free software to create simple graphs and visualisations of data.
    • Use vector graphic software to bring these visualisations into the one graphic.
    Ultimately, if you have a little design skill, the very best approach is to create all the simple graphs and illustrations yourself using vector graphic software. Your end result will be more visually attractive and you will have more freedom to be creative with it.

    Free Online Tools For Creating Infographics
    1. Stat Planet


    Stat Planet allows you to create some amazing interactive visualisations, which you can then use as is or create a static image. It can be used within your browser or downloaded for free. Stat Planet gives you access to some great world data and lets you customise that in your visualisations. It also has some great map-based visualisations to try.
    information graphics

    2. Hohli

    Hohli is an intuitive, simple online chart maker. It’s incredibly easy to pick your chart type, add some data, vary the sizes and colours and see the finished chart. The finished charts are also very well designed and look great!

    information graphics

    3. Creately

    Creately lets you make easy-to-make diagrams and flow charts (easy to collaborate too). When you start, you can choose from a number of purpose-designed diagram types and quickly add your data to make your own chart. The end result looks very professional.
    information graphics


    4. New York Times

    New York Times’ Visualization Lab lets you use statistics from recent NYTimes articles to create visualisations in various formats. You can also see other people’s visualisations and see how other people choose to display the same data.

    data graphics

    5. Many Eyes

    Many Eyes lets you upload your own data or use data already stored on the site. The visualisations themselves are well-designed and very professional-looking. This is definitely the easiest way to use your own data for online visualisations.
    data graphics



    Google Public Data lets you easily take public data and transform it into an infographic of your choice. These beautiful, colourful graphics simplify and communicate the data perfectly
    data graphics

    7. Tableau

    Tableau is a free Windows-only software for creating visualisations. As you can see, these impressive graphs are colourful and quite unique.


    GapMinder is a free Adobe Air (cross-platform by nature) application to ensure you have current data on major world issues and can create visualisations for your purposes. Data is updated yearly and released with new versions of the application. The visuals are also quite impressive!



    9. Inkscape

    Inkscape is a free vector graphic software available for many platforms. This is the ideal free option for the creation of your overall infographic. Simple and intuitive, you should have no problems importing your visualisations and combining them with other visuals to create your masterpiece.

    infographics


    10. Wordle

    Wordle lets you create word visualisations using text you enter. There are plenty of interesting designs to choose from. Enter whole books, short passages or see what other people have used. In this example, we can see the US constitution visualised.



    Saturday, April 23, 2011

    Today'sMeet



    Imagine you're giving a presentation where you can read the mind of every person in the room. You'd have an amazing ability to adjust to your audience's needs and emotions. That's what a backchannel is, a conversation that happens in the background while the initial activity continues uninterrupted.

    Using Twitter at social media conferences has become a great way to do just that. But Twitter isn't appropriate for every situation.
    • Your audience are not on Twitter
    • You don't want the discussion to be public. 
    • You need to see only relevent updates.
    That's where TodaysMeet comes in. TodaysMeet gives you an isolated chatroom where you can see only what you need to see, and your audience doesn't need to learn any new tools like hash tags to keep everything together. TodaysMeet helps you embrace the backchannel and encourage the room to use the live stream to make comments, ask questions, and to then use that feedback to tailor your presentation, sharpen your points, and address audience needs.

    Could we use a Web 2.0 tool like this in Education?
    Imagine you have a situation where you have large numbers of students in a number of classrooms all working independently on inquiry based learning tasks or challenge based learning activities. You have a small number of teachers / tutors who are there to facilitate individual learning. They may even be designated as tutors in a particular area; Web 2 Tools, Mac Apps, History or even English.

    Using a TodaysMeet Room all students have access to any of the tutors. You will need a computer or laptop AV cabled to a TV or Projector. Then simply set up a room. This is as easy as;
    • typing in the web address - http://www.todaysmeet.com
    • naming the room, 
    • giving the name of your room to your students and
    • getting your students to join the room.
    Now your students just have to type in "Ms M I need some help saving my Vuvox in room E9". We have used this in our school this year and find it useful in our own CBL sessions.



    We actually ask the students to not only use it to ask for help but also to share resources, to crowd source and to find other individuals studying similar concepts. Most students have taken to it very easily, in fact far more than we had initial expected.

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    Design Tools to die for

    Written by a guest blogger over at http://www.techlearning.com on the 17th April. Nice article about the presentation expectations of both teachers and their students. This is an issue I have been passionate about for some time now. Why would I present information to my students in a manner that is dull or boring. But, this attitude needs to be reciprocal, the information they present to me has to be presented in such a way that I want to read it. Obviously this is an attitude not a hard and fast rule but you get my point. 

    Anyway enjoy the article. It is a excellent collection of tools and  Joyce Valenza, Kristen Swanson and Jennifer Stern really deserve some credit for putting this together.

    We're getting a little fussier about the way our stuff looks.  My students and I have come to the realization that this read/write web thing makes us all not only writers, but designers as well.
    So, I've been collecting a full range of tools on our New Tools Guide, and I thought I share a few tools that are fast becoming our desert island apps for the design of presentations, digital stories, wikis, websites, and whatever else we publish or broadcast.
    Picnik: Confession, I have PhotoShop Elements, but I love the ease of this free Swiss army knifeimage editor. It allows me to crop, resize, sharpen, and fix my photos for red eye. AND it offers a fabulous array of frames, stickers, effects, and text options.  And did I mention that it is also easy?  Over the past years, I've been so impressed with this free tool that I just had to invest the $24.95 for its premium options.  Picnik is available as a browser extension and if you love using Flickr Blue Mountains for finding copyright-friendly images, Picnik appears as an option on your selected result.
    BeFunky similarly offers nifty opportunities to not only edit images, but to add a wide variety of regular photographic and artsy effects, to add graphics, and text.  I am tempted buy the premium features here too!
    FotoFlexer is an excellent alternative basic photo editor.
    Aviary: I don't think a single day goes by that I don't reach for the Aviary tool on my browser bar for a quick image grab.  But this flock of birdy tools does much more than simply grab.  The free web-based suite includes:
    • Talon: the screen capturer with Firefox extension (my image grabber)
    • Phoenix: the layer-based image editor
    • Peacock: the visual laboratory for creating amazing effects and visualizations
    • Toucan: the color pallette coordinator
    • Roc: the music creator
    • Myna: the audio editor
    • Peacock: the effects editor
    • Raven: vector editor
    You can have so much free fun with fonts.
    So, move beyond the ho-hum, standard fonts offered by your word processing and presentation tools.
    Dafont.com makes me so much happier than Helvetica.  You can download your favorites of the many fonts offered or quickly generate an image of your text, adjusting for size.
    Fontspace offers its wide variety of font selections through a word cloud.  Adjust the slider for size and choose font color.  You may also want to try a few (some flashier) options:
    • CoolText.com (interactive text/banner/button generator)
    • 3D Text Maker (generates static or animated text)
    • Glowtxt (generate text with or without glow)
    • Signbot (create animated srolling LED signage)
    • Supalogo (use the pull-down menu to quickly generate text, choosing color, outline, size, transparency)
    • Textanim 2.0 (Animated text generator)
    Support now exists for the color-challenged.
    Adobe Kuler allows the amateur designer to explore and create color schemes, save and download themes, and browse thousands of themes from the Kuler community.
    Color Scheme Designer allows users to navigate colors using a color wheel and to easily identify hex numbers.
    Colour Lovers offers the opportunity to browse palettes, patterns, and individual colors, and to create and save your own palettes.
    Upload a photo into Pictaculous and easily generate a palette to complement it. (This one also works on your smart phone!)
    Designed for both the professional and the enthusiast, Color Explorer is a free online toolbox for designing and working with color palettes.  It allows users to match colors, browse popular color libraries, export palettes into programs like Photoshop and Illustrator, analyze palettes from photographs and images, and store palettes.
    And then there are those cool image generators. Lately I've been awfully fond of Photofunia to create attractive frames and galleries for my images.

    Of course, don't forget those old favorites:

    Big Huge Labs to create motivational and movie posters, trading cards, magazine covers, pop art, and so much more.

    Image Chef for a catalog of hundreds of templates for both still and animated creations.
    For more on playing with image and design tools, check out our new Image Guide.