Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wordia The Visual and Collaborative Dictionary!

Wordia is the most interesting dictionary I have ever seen!  Not only does it give you definitions of words like regular dictionaries, but it gives you videos that show you the meaning of the word visually!  What is even better is that the videos are uploaded from all sorts of people like us!  Here is a quotation right from their website.  "Like a traditional dictionary, Wordia allows users to search for the spelling, meaning and etymology of a word but what makes Wordia unique is the ability for users to explore the personal connotation of word through video."  

Imagine in your classroom having students define important concepts and vocabulary words by creating a video to be uploaded to Wordia.  By having your students do this, not only would they be reflecting deeply on the meanings of these words, but also be sharing their learning with a global audience making the assignment very very real!  You could have students work collaboratively in groups or individually.  This is also a great place for students to look up words especially if they are visual learners.  For those teachers using the Universal Design for Learning/Differentiated Instruction, this is a great way to use Web 2.0 tools as alternate learning and assessments paths.

Here is an example of a video done by a student:

http://www.wordia.com/shield_volcano/videos/1301

Go to Wordia today and check out this exciting new tool at http://www.wordia.com/wotd/2010/12/8.  
You can sign up for a free account and let the definitions begin!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dippen' Into Dipity the Multimedia Timeline Maker

Dipity is a kind of search engine that reaches out and finds information on the web about any given topic.  You can create your own timeline or view someone else's.  You can add your own events and create a timeline from scratch too!  This tool can also be used to keep track of what you have been doing on the web or you can make events as a way to keep track of a project.

It is also a perfect way for a students to demonstrate their understanding of a historical or current event by creating a timeline of what led up to a particular point in history.  Students can search for topics that they are gathering information about from websites with RSS feeds, add information to the timeline manually that they find out from other resources like books or websites without RSS feeds, and get realtime information from social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and several others.  What a great tool to use when you are differentiating an assessment.  This is a tool that you really need to play with to understand the power and implications for the classroom.

Take a look and sign up for a free account at:  www.dipity.com and check out the tutorial video below that will show you how to create your own timeline!



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cloudlet - Not Just Another Cloud on the Web

When I came across this tool, all I could say was WOW!  Teachers have spent years trying to get students to refine their Internet searches, use Boolean techniques and yet have continued to watch them try to go through massive amounts of information or just grab the first thing they see when researching a topic.  Now there is Cloudlet, which is a free Firefox add on that works with Google to create a tag cloud to help researchers refine their searches easily and quickly!  You can see in the picture here to the right that I was searching on the War of 1812.  Cloudlet automatically pops up a tag cloud that helps me refine my search.  Watch this video to see it in action.  You will be impressed.
http://www.getcloudlet.com/swm.php?page=video

Try it out today at:  http://www.getcloudlet.com

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Widgetbox - Lets You Make an App for That!

A colleague showed me Widgetbox yesterday and explained how her husband was using it within his school system to create a widget that could be shared on a website or as a phone application for parents to use for quick access to school information.

Of course, I had to go home and play with it and create a widget of my own!  I also created a mobile app for my iPhone that links to my blog, tweets and YouTube channel.  It looks just like a tiny little icon on my phone and when pressed looks like this picture and users can choose where they want to go.  Whatever they choose automatically comes up on the screen to read or watch videos.  It is pretty darn cool!  Once you create the mobile widget, you simply take the permalink and go to it from your phone and save it to your home screen to make it an app!  Here is the link to my mobile widget to try it out:  http://m.wbx.me/mobile-site-iteachtechnologynow  Just go to the link from your iPhone and then touch the + sign and choose Add to Home Screen.  It then becomes an app on your iPhone!   You also have the choice of embedding the widget on your website.

So, how can we educators use this?  A few things come to mind:
  • quick reference links for community (news, maps, school website)
  • use widget on teacher websites so students have access to the links you wish them to see
  • allows students to create widgets of their own for their website and/or phone for quick reference
  • use other shared widgets that give you access to all kinds of educational information
Drawbacks are that it doesn't work with all sites, but the site says they are working on that!  I would definitely check it out and think about how you can use it with your students and share your ideas by commenting please.

www.widgetbox.com

Friday, June 4, 2010

History Pin - Collecting our World's History One Picture at a Time

History Pin is a brand new site in beta version whose aim is to collect our world's history by collecting old pictures from people around the world.  They are working in cooperation with Google Maps.  People can upload their old pictures, "pin" them to the location that they were taken on the Google Map and put in an explanation of the picture.  The implications for education are huge!  Students can find pictures for areas on the map that they are studying and actually view then and now pictures!  There may be little stories attached to the pictures as well so students will need to remember to verify for accuracy any information that may have major historical implications.  Students can also help with the project by uploading old photos, with permission from parents of course.

This is an exciting project because old photographs deteriorate and this is a way to preserve them, share personal  and cultural history, learn about other countries and their cultural perspectives from people who are sharing their stories of where they came from and who they are.  This could potentially be a wonderful way to bring the people of the world closer by seeing images that demonstrate how alike we really are as well as celebrate and understand our differences.

Check it out at:  http://www.historypin.com/ and sign up for a free account.  Let's all help build the history of our world one picture at a time!

For more information, you can check out this video: 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mouse Mischief from Microsoft

The folks at Microsoft have created a free (yes, I said free) add-on to PowerPoint 2007 and 2010 called Mouse Mischief.  This add-on lets students participate in their teacher's PowerPoint lesson, which means they can do activities as individuals or teams, take informal assessments, play games, draw, identify information and the list goes on.  When they do an assessment, the results show instantly in a chart right on the screen.  Sounds a little like SMART Response Systems, doesn't it?  Each student uses a wireless mouse which shows up right in the presentation.  This is such a neat idea and is really inexpensive.  The software add-on is free so all you need are the wireless mice.  There is a catch in that Windows XP and Vista will only let you use up to 5 mice in your classroom.  However, Windows 7 will let you use up to 20 or 25 mice!

I downloaded the software and tried out the teacher portion and found that it is really easy to use.  I'm looking forward to trying it in a classroom.  This definitely looks like a great way to get active participation in your lessons, which we all know leads to enhanced engagement and learning!   There are also several ready-made lessons and templates that are available for free.  I suggest that you try it out and see how it works in  your classroom.

For more information:  http://www.microsoft.com/multipoint/mouse-mischief/

For lesson plans:   http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/CT103751791033.aspx

Videos of Teachers Using Mouse Mischief:  http://www.microsoft.com/multipoint/mouse-mischief/learn-more.aspx 

Friday, April 9, 2010

Apple iPad -WOW


Right now I'm keying this post using the iPad. The keyboard takes a little getting used to for a touch keyboarder like myself, but it works better than I suspected. It is also intuitive and will offer word completion while you key that you accept by simply hitting the spacebar. The screen is large enough to very see very clearly while you browse the Internet. While listening to iTunes, I was surprised that the sound quality was pretty darn good! It looks just like a huge iPod Touch but visually it is so much nicer to use. I can really see what I am keying as well the sites I am visiting on the Internet without having enlarge things like I did on my iPod Touch. I think I am falling In love with this technology! What a wonderful way for students and teachers to have easy and quick access to the Internet for research, have audio or digital textbooks right at their fingertips, and they hardly take up any space at all.

It will be interesting to see what textbook contracts come through for this technology and what the books will cost. This technology could change the way a classroom operates in a big way. Kudos to Apple and watch out Kindle because now you have some real competition! You can check out the iPad for yourself at www.apple.com

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Podcasting - An Engaging Tool for Authentic Learning and Assessment

Podcasting is a powerful way to share information, tell stories, entertain and assess learning in a creative, engaging and authentic way. OK, it's a great thing, but what is podcasting you ask?  Podcasting is using the Internet to host episodes of audio and/or media files that can be heard/seen on the Internet, on your own computer or downloaded.  Often, they are captured in "podcatchers" like iTunes which looks for new episodes of a particular podcast to which you have subscribed.  Someone explained podcasts to me once by making the analogy between podcasting and an old fashioned radio show.  However, now we can make audio podcasts, enhanced podcasts (audio accompanied by pictures) and video podcasts (which are sometimes called vodcasts).  This is another way of making a digital story to share with people from all over the world or just your little piece of it.  They can be hosted on local networks or your computer so that they are not accessed globally or hosted in the cloud on sites such as podomatic, odeo, or iTunes (there are many others) so that they can be shared with all who would like to listen to them.

 In education, podcasting can be used as an authentic way of learning and assessment.  For example, imagine a middle school language arts classroom where the students are beginning to learn about the 9 comprehensive reading strategies.  After initial introduction to the strategies, students are asked to work in pairs to create a podcast on a particular strategy.  The strategy is to be explained in the podcast and an example given to demonstrate how the strategy is used while reading.  An appropriate introduction and conclusion are incorporated into the podcast as well as nice background music. The teacher uses a rubric to assess the students' understanding of the reading strategy assigned, as well as the students' use of the technology.  Then the podcasts are shared with the entire community so that all students and parents can learn from the podcasts.  By sharing with the community at large, parents and grandparents are now able to better help their children with reading comprehension!  The students were able to participate in an fun, engaging and authentic learning experience that benefits their community and feel a sense of pride in their work.  This kind of scenario could be done in all content areas.

Give podcasting a try with your students.  You will be glad you did and so will they!  Below are some helpful links to get you started!

www.podomatic.com to upload, and store your podcasts.  You can even create an RSS feed that you can give to iTunes and they will become a podcatcher for your feeds.  This has a definite cool factor for students.

http://audacity.sourceforge.net/  This is a free downloadable software that will let you record your podcast and change it into an mp3.  You will also need the lame encoder file to make mp3's in Audacity.  Audacity will work on either a Mac or a PC.  The site has downloads for both formats.

Here are some Audacity tutorials:  http://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/Category:Tutorial

http://www.musopen.com/ is where you can get some music from the public domain for your podcast.

Good luck!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Head Magnet - Your Brain in the Cloud

When you log in, Head Magnet greets you warmly and offers you all the information that you have stored in it plus its own suggestions for your personal improvement activities.  It considers itself your brain in the cloud because it compartmentalizes information like names, faces, vocabulary, quotations, and anything else you need to remember!  It can also create flash cards to help you study.   It offers you new information to expand your vocabulary, learn about other countries, as well as offer you games to improve your: spatial reasoning, memory, attention, focus, speed, language, visual perception, problem solving skills, fluid intelligence, reaction time, general health and stress levels. Best of all, it's free!

This site seems like quite a find in this information based world of ours where we are constantly trying to remember everything.  In terms of using it as an educational tool, my initial reaction was that it could serve as a great assistive technology, but then really it is designed to help everyone.  I believe that both teachers and students alike (and lets not forget about our administrators) can really benefit from this tool which fits so nicely into UDL (universal design for learning) teaching practices.  I encourage you to check it out for yourselves and enhance your brain!

Link:  www.headmagnet.com
Here is a link where you can explore some of the activities available:  http://headmagnet.com/explore
This is one of the memory games that it links you to:  http://www.lumosity.com/

Monday, March 1, 2010

eyePlorer - A New Vision for Information

I was recently introduced to a new Web 2.0 tool called eyePlorer. It is sort of a search engine with a new twist. In eyePlorer, you simple key in a topic you are interested in researching, hit go and watch categorized information called eye spots appear. To see if it is the information that you need, you can click on one of the "eye spots" to get an explanation of that particular piece of information. If this isn't cool enough, you can drag information to a built-in notepad on your screen any information that you would like to keep and it saves your notes from session to session!  You can create several different tabs in your notes so that you can keep different topics separated. Seeing is believing, so here is a video that explains how it works. http://en.eyeplorer.com/show/intro.html

This tool is definitely worth trying with your students or for yourself. I especially love how when you click on an eye spot, it tells you what the article or piece of information is about so you don't necessarily have to go to the site and read to find out if it is what you need. Try it out the next time you ask your students to do some research.  My prediction is that students may be more engaged because of the way eyePlorer works.  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think of it!

Here is the link to eyePlorer so you can check it out!  www.eyePlorer.com/show

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Few Software Applications of Note

I tested a new software called SpellQuizzer.   The main page can be found at  (http://www.SpellQuizzer.com).   It was designed to compliment a teacher's spelling and vocabulary curriculum by allowing them to create their own spelling lists.  The built-in spell checker recognizes both US and UK English spellings and warns the teacher if they make a typographical error while creating their own spelling lists.  That is an important feature because we all make typos at one time or another.  The teacher makes recordings of themselves pronouncing each word and can put it into a sentence to foster the correct meaning and spelling of those pesky words that are spelled more than one way depending upon their meaning.   The software also gives you free downloadable spelling lists at their website:  http://www.spellquizzer.com/Spelling-Lists.htm.   There is also a community area where collaboration is encouraged through discussion forums and places to share your spelling lists.  This software is not free, however, the creator, Dan Hite, is currently offering SpellQuizzer free to any educator who contacts him at http://www.SpellQuizzer.com/Contact.htm.  

Another great application that I have found is the Visual Mathematical Toolkit.  This is a free download at http://amath.colorado.edu/java/ .  This software came from the University of Colorado at Boulder's Department of Applied Mathematics.  This is a very powerful mathematics tool that can be used to simulate the visual learning of Calculus and Differential Equations. 

MVT, as it is known, contains visual and computational tools which are designed to help students visualize the concepts of Calculus. MVP contains several tools such as: a Scientific calculator, Plotting tools, Numerical tools, Linear algebra tools, Differential equations tools, Content-specific applications, Other Calculus visualization tools, and has a Tutorial-style help system.  This software is extremely powerful and can be used for high school as well as for college mathematics. 

Another math tool that is free that can be used on-line is Visual Math Learning.  This web 2.0 tool can be found at:  http://www.visualmathlearning.com/.  
 VML is an interactive multimedia software program  that can be used as a pre-algebra and elementary algebra tutorial.  Included in the tutorials are lessons, exercises and games to keep students engaged and learning!  Teachers, parents and students can all benefit from using this tool.  It does not require any registration and the sites goal is to simply improve math education.

I encourage you to give these tools a try.  Please feel free to give me feedback about them.  

Monday, February 1, 2010

Why is Technology So Important in Education?


Many people may ask this question because education in many ways is different today than it was when they were in school and they want to know why. The answer to the question isn’t always so obvious either. However, the plain and simple truth is that today’s world has changed. No longer do our children learn in the isolation of a classroom. No longer is memorization of facts and figures the goal. To keep up with our ever changing global community with all its complexities, our children must learn to be complex problems solvers, to be able to work collaboratively, to be good digital, global and community citizens, to develop their higher order thinking skills, to become experts in something that they are passionate about, to be able to discern good information from bad and to be competitive in the global workplace regardless of their chosen career.

Technology assists our children in obtaining all of these skills. More so today than every before in history, students have the ability to research any topic. They are not bound by classroom or library walls. Technology has opened doors to a seemingly infinite well of information, which is not always accurate. Therefore, they need to learn how to sift through it all and get the “good stuff.” This seemingly infinite well of information and current bank of technology has also allowed students to truly invest themselves in their education by developing personal educational plans or studying fields of particular interest to them. When students are actively engaged in their own learning to reach his or her own ultimate potential, everybody wins. For example, perhaps a social studies teacher wants their students to do a project about the Roman Empire. Each student could choose a particular part of the Roman Empire that sparks their interest such as politics, fashion, or the technology of the time. Assessments could then be differentiated by allowing students the leeway to choose their product such as a fake blog where students pretend to be political figures in Rome and discuss politics or a wiki is developed where students collaboratively design the latest Roman fashion. Local history could be studied by students gathering oral histories from senior citizens and then creating a podcast of the project to put on-line and share with the community! The possibilities are endless all thanks to technology and teacher/student creativity! To quote Edutopia, an on-line publication, “Learning through projects while equipped with technology tools allows students to be intellectually challenged while providing them with a realistic snapshot of what the modern office looks like. Through projects, students acquire and refine their analysis and problem-solving skills as they work individually and in teams to find, process, and synthesize information they’ve found online.” For more information on educational technology, you can find this article at: http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-introduction.

In short, we are not teaching our students to work in jobs existing in the past or perhaps even the present, we are facilitating our students’ education so that they will be able to succeed in the jobs of the future! These may be jobs that do not even exist today! So in this ever-changing global society of ours, we need to keep focused on what is in the best interest of our children by providing them the opportunities and tools that they will need for their future. Here is a YouTube video from Dr. Howie DiBlasi that addresses these issues with some shocking statistics! http://tinyurl.com/diblasi.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

SchoolTube - A Safe Showcase for Students


School Tube is a free alternative to YouTube for schools.  Every school can set up their own channel where student and teacher created videos can be showcased!  Each teacher has their own channel.  What a great way to share projects with your school, family and the community at large!  One of the great things about SchoolTube is that it is moderated.  This means that each school has at least one person who is the moderator of their school channels.  This person will have the opportunity to review all videos before they are uploaded.  This keeps mischievous folks from uploading improper videos.  Because of this, schools and teachers can feel safe when students are searching for a video on SchoolTube.

Not only can teachers and students showcase original video projects for class, but you could also upload videos for school news, sporting events, drama and music events!  I am sure that all the creative educators and students out there can think of many things to use SchoolTube for so please leave a comment and share your ideas!

Remember that it is necessary to get permission from those involved and/or their parents before uploading a video.  No one wants to be on the Internet without their knowledge or permission!

Check it out and see what you think!  SchoolTubehttp://www.schooltube.com/

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jing Screencasting Software - Free!!


What is Jing you ask?  Jing is free software that you can download from the web that will let you record everything that you do on your computer screen or take snapshots.  You can record your voice at the same time using a microphone.  It then changes this recording into a movie file that you can upload to the web (YouTube, SchoolTube, etc.), play from your computer or website. 

This is very useful in education for many reasons.  You can create "How To" movies complete with narration to help students understand a technological  procedure, use a web 2.0 application, do a math problem, do research, cite sources, and the list goes on and on.  Just recently, I watched a Jing produced by one of my college students in my Digital Storytelling course.  This high school algebra teacher used PowerPoint and narration to explain how to do algebra problems that his high school students will be working on in class.  Then he used Jing to record his PowerPoint to create a movie.  It is simply an outstanding way of reaching students at home!  Let's face it, how many of us as youngsters got home, tried to do our algebra homework and just couldn't remember all the steps?  Now his students can go to his website and watch the video on all the steps of the problem and their problem is solved!!  Great job Glenn!!

There is a paid version of this program for $14.95 per year that lets you do direct uploads to your YouTube channel, or Flickr, etc.  I highly recommend you checking this out.  It is another tool that is simply outstanding.  Thanks to all the programmers who put this stuff out so that educators like myself can create richer learning environments for our students!!  Bravo!

Here is where you can download Jing!  http://www.jingproject.com/download/ 
Check out Glenn's Jing!  http://screencast.com/t/YWU5ZTJhY
Check out Glenn's School Site!