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! 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.  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: 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!

Here is a link where you can explore some of the activities available:
This is one of the memory games that it links you to:

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.

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!