Friday, April 18, 2014

Real Time Research - What's Going on in the World Right Now?


Like many people, I used to take for granted posting to friends on Facebook and sharing with relatives those cute family pictures.  Then an event took place which changed my thinking of how information - real-time information - is shared and how that has impacted our ability to be "in the know" and the ethical responsibilities that have evolved.

When Hurricane Irene hit Vermont, I was sitting in my living room looking outside thinking that this storm hadn't turned out to be as bad as they had thought.  At my house, it didn't seem to be so dangerous.  To pass some time, I went on Facebook only to find out that others were not faring well and just how bad the storm was.  My friends and family were posting pictures of what was happening around them as well as pictures from the news on the Internet.  I was horrified.  Some members of my own family were fleeing their home for higher ground.  I checked my tweets and I learned all about what was not only happening in Vermont, but from all over the storm area.  

This personal real-time reporting is powerful.  We now see real-time reporting used commonly in the news and people who are in the middle of an event are tweeting and otherwise reporting out what they see, hear and feel in very personal ways.  This type of news is made up of first-hand accounts - a new kind of primary source has emerged.

Being a teacher, I began to think about how this new kind of powerful real-time information could be of use in student research.  My mind traveled through scenarios of students learning about elections using Twitter to see how the elections are going in any given country at any given moment or searching for information on any modern event they may be learning about in class.  All they would have to do is use a hashtag or just simply search a topic and find out about anything they want to know that is going on in the world right now!  Talk about a way to learn about and live history.....  

I began working with teachers to share these ideas and to demonstrate different apps and web tools that would help them create new learning environments for their students.  Teachers were generally amazed at what could be found out in a few seconds of a search on Twitter or Facebook.  Even texting can be very useful especially if you can create a network of people willing to pass along and relate back information.  Modern technology is really a miracle, but not without a downside.  What if people lie about what is going on around them in real time?

I challenge you educators out there to teach your students to use social networking in ways that will further their education, satisfy their curiosity, communicate with experts, and understand this new powerful and important means of obtaining modern primary sources.  They themselves could become  a primary resource and understanding the ethical responsibility of that possibility is crucial.  We must not only teach them about what they can do with technology, but what they should and should not do with it.  Like it or not, we must teach them digital citizenship and ethics.  With the miracle of technology, comes great responsibility as well.  Just like evaluating resources on the Internet, students need to remember to not just look at one piece of real-time information as if it is gospel, but to look at many sources to sort out what is going on with a given event.

Below are some tools that may assist you in using social networking as a means of research with your students as well as some resources for teaching digital citizenship and ethics.

Tools

Flipboard - absolutely an amazing app to gather all kinds of information and put it into "magazines" on any given topic from multiple sources.  Available for computer, ios and Android

Twitter apps are widely available in all kinds of platform.

TweetDeck is an app as well as an online tool.

Facebook apps are widely available in addition to using it on the computer.

Twitter Feed

Paper.li - is an app or an online tool that allows you to create a real-time newspaper based on the information that you want to know.

Digital Citizenship and Ethics











Saturday, December 14, 2013

iPads Level the Playing Field for All

I have been very passionate about the use of iPads in education ever since I got one in my hands
several years ago.  Since then I have been teaching various courses to assist educators in using them with their students and to understand the pedagogical implications.  iPads offer a new way of teaching, learning and assessing that is meaningful, authentic, collaborative, and creative.  They allow students to communicate with each other and the world both locally and globally and despite what some educators think, they are useful with all students no matter their age or ability.

The iPad is an amazing tool for special education.  Between apps and settings, it is an assistive technology marvel.  Just the other day, one of the teachers in my course commented on the unexpected outcomes of using an iPad in her classroom.  She has young children with special needs. She created a learning opportunity to address the skill deficits of each child during the week using an iPad.  Not only did the children improve their skills dramatically, but their social skills improved as well.  The iPad had also become a tool for learning social interaction skills, turn taking, learning conversation and speaking skills.  I have personally seen a child who was unable to speak at age level benefit from receiving an iPad.  The little girl was two years old and unable to say what she wanted.  She could not retrieve words or would say words that made no sense even though she knew what she wanted to say.  This often caused frustration, anxiety and temper tantrums.  She had speech therapy, occupational therapy, etc., and while she improved, it was slow.  Her parents purchased an iPad and we loaded it with everything educational for a two year old and concentrated on apps for teaching speech and anything that talked to her, and read to her.  She was engaged with it immediately and within two months she had gained 50 correct, understandable words and the frequency of temper tantrums had decreased!!  This iPad has continued to be one of her learning tools over the past three years. Now that she is five, you would never know she ever had a speech deficit.  She is highly verbal, understandable, can easily get across what she wants to say!  There are so many stories like these that are truly heartwarming and inspiring.  The articles that I have read about the successes of autistic children and adults who use iPads were enough to bring happy tears to my eyes.

Have they been a disruptive technology?  Absolutely!  They are shaking things up, forcing us educators to think in new ways to engage students in their learning.  This is a good thing even while I still feel that it is important for children to learn basics without technology too (writing with a pencil, learning to do math first without a calculator, coloring with crayons, creating a hand made graph, etc.), I do feel that this mobile technology is important on many levels.  We have to remember that even a pencil was once a new technology and probably feared by some at that time.  Let's not be afraid of embracing a technology that can assist us in differentiating learning, providing students with avenues of collaboration, experimentation and creativity and providing assistive technologies for those in need of them.  The world is different now.  Educators have powerful tools like never before.  Embrace it and facilitate learning for your students using technology to find creative and innovative solutions to problems because they are the future and it matters.  



Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Internet Research - Double Edged Sword

Allison Morris of OnlineEducation.net created a graphic that looks at the pros and cons of Internet research.  She wants to share it with a wide audience and would love to have your thoughts as educators.  She makes some great points about some of the pitfalls of online research.   As educators, we need to make sure we address these skills with our students to make sure that they understand how to properly and efficiently do research online.  A good resource for getting lessons and materials to students is from www.commonsensemedia.org.

Check out her graphic here and give us some of your thoughts on the pros and cons of Internet research and share with us how you address these issues with your students!


Digital Research Infographic

Friday, February 15, 2013

Create a Think Tank with ThinkBinder!


Interface for ThinkBinder
ThinkBinder is a way to create virtual study groups.  It has an interface which allows students to create groups, have a shared calendar, draw on a whiteboard collaboratively, participate in a discussion feed, and in a video chat!   This web 2.0 tool is very versatile and is a great way for students to get together online to work collaboratively on homework, projects and study for tests.

The interface is very easy to use.  You invite your classmates to your study group via email and once they accept, they are available for video chat, messaging, whiteboards, and more.  Imagine being able to help each other with math problems by using the collaborative whiteboard to draw it all out or create storyboards for a video project!  Students living in rural areas can continue to work together outside of class even if they live miles away.

Students can have several study groups as well so that they can have one for each of their classes.  This keeps students organized and teachers happy!  Students can also upload files so that they can keep their homework, reports, study sheets, etc. right on the website as well.  This seems like one stop shopping for virtually studying!  Another great feature of ThinkBinder is that there is a button that can be dragged to your browser's toolbar that allows students to bookmark and automatically share online materials with their study group.  So if students are researching and find a good website, they click on the Bind button, choose which study group they want to share it with and the url is automatically posted into the newsfeed for that study group.  This is also a wonderful way of keeping track of those urls so that you can site your sources later on.

You and your students should check out ThinkBinder at www.thinkbinder.com.  Here is a video that gives even more information:



Monday, August 20, 2012

Notability - An App To Take Note Of

Notability is an app that is highly versatile and will work for all kinds of learners. A colleague of mine recently talked to me about how she uses it with her students with special needs. I was impressed.

Imagine an app where you can open up any PDF and write, draw, impose pictures and shapes, highlight text, type and record audio right in it and you have notability. As a teacher, you can send your students via email a PDF article, drawing, mind map , worksheet, quiz, etc. Students open the attachment from their iPad into Notability and can now work with it and when they're done, email it back to their teacher for review or correction. Students who because of motor issues can't key or draw, can record their answers, thoughts, notes etc. right in the app for easy playback. You can also start notes from scratch.

This app is a must have for your iPad or iPhone because it is so easy to use, flexible and practical. Check it out in the app store. Here is a YouTubehttp://m.youtube.com/#/watch?desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DbvulN3Demonstrationas well as a review of the app in MacWorld Article

Try it out and leave a comment letting us know how you like it and use it with students.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Creative Book Builder App for iPad

I have been taking a lot of time looking at different iPad apps that would be useful for students and teachers.  I just love iPads and the potential they hold for teaching, learning, differentiation, creativity and project based learning opportunities.  One of the biggest pluses to iPads is that they work almost instantaneously while computers take a while to even turn on and because of this class time is not wasted.

The apps that are available for the iPad are also truly amazing and abundant.  Strangely enough, these days a challenge for teachers is finding the right app because there are so many to choose from.  One terrific app is Creative Book Builder. I recently went to a VITA Learn workshop where I learned about this app.  I have been playing around with it and find it has a ton of potential.  What it does is very easily allow the user to build an eBook using text, links, images, video, and audio that can be sent right to iBooks to be viewed.  Since it functions on the iPad, the app is completely integrated so that student created videos and images can be quickly  imported into their book as well as student created music from Garage Band.  This eliminates any issues of copyright!

Teachers can create eBooks for their students complete with all the multimedia information that their students need to be successful.  Students can use the app to create innovative multimedia products demonstrating their learning which can be used as their assessments.  I highly encourage you to check out this amazing app.  It is worth every penny and more at $3.99.

See it in action in this YouTube video.  It isn't in English, but you can clearly see what he is doing and he does a great job demonstrating how the app works. No translations needed.




Friday, February 17, 2012

Finding Your Voice With VoiceThread

I have been using VoiceThread for a long time now and frankly can't believe that I haven't blogged about it before.  If you don't know what a VoiceThread is, then you are in for a pleasant surprise.  A VoiceThread is kind of like a collaborative audio blog type presentation tool that allows you to use pictures, videos, and documents to make your story known.  You can also draw in color on a picture to make your point as your audio plays.

Here is an example of how you could use it in the classroom as an assessment/culminating activity.

You assign your students to groups and allow them to pick a topic to research.  The group researches their topic and begins to shape the material into a presentation.  They use VoiceThread by uploading their pictures and video that they have taken/gathered to accompany scripts that they have written to teach others what they have learned.  They create their VoiceThread and then ask their peers to view and make audio comments/ask questions on the material.  The original student group then addresses the questions by adding more audio to the VoiceThread.  They then make it public to share their learning with the world.  Teachers can also browse content to find information that they may wish to use to illustrate concepts that they are presenting to their class.

This is a wonderful tool that you just have to check out.  There is a free version and a paid version.  Schools can purchase site licenses as well.  However, older students can create their own free account which will work just fine for projects.  Classroom teachers can have a class account to use with their younger students.  Check out this highly collaborative and unique tool by watching the VoiceThread below and by going to the link!

Here is an example of a VoiceThread made by 7th graders on creating safe passwords and you can browse at VoiceThread to find many more examples of student work.

























www.voicethread.com 

Tutorials