Category: mobile computing (page 2 of 3)

Using iDevices to Enhance Creativity

The iPad and iPod have great potential as tools for promoting the 21st century skill of creativity. Apps designers have produced an endless stream of tools for making music, creating works of art, creative writing and storytelling, and promoting outside-the-box thinking. The following apps are but a few examples that hold promise for the classroom teacher. If you have favorite creativity apps not mentioned, please feel free to share them!

Music

  • Magic Fiddle($2.99)–This app turns the iPad into a concert violin. The app includes an interactive tutorial, songbook, free play, and world feature, which allows users to listen to other users around the globe.

    Sixstring

    Sixstring

  • Songify (FREE)–Songify is a fun app that lets users create and share original songs. Users simply speak the lyrics into the iPad or iPod microphone, and Songify puts the lyrics to music. Songs can be saved and shared through email, Facebook, or Twitter.
  • Six Strings ($6.99)–Play a variety of virtual stringed instruments (guitar, mandolin, banjo, ukulele) or drums. Users can select a variety of chords and keys. Songs can be mixed with loops from a built-in library, saved, and exported.
  • LaDiDa ($2.99)–Creates songs by automatically putting users’ singing to music. Songs can be shared via email, Facebook, or Twitter.
  • Ocarina ($.99)–Turns the iPod or iPad into a beautiful electronic flute. Users can record and share songs via email. Like Magic Fiddle, users can also listen to others playing Ocarina around the world.
  • LeafTBone ($.99)–Fun app turns iDevices into virtual trombones, played either by touch or by a combination of blowing into the built-in microphone and touching the screen.
  • Garage Band ($4.99)–Powerful app lets users play and record virtual instruments, record voice tracks, mix and edit multiple tracks, and share songs via email or through iTunes.

Painting/Drawing

  • Animation Studio ($1.99)–Powerful, bargain-priced animation tool. Create frame-by-frame animations, import photos, record audio, use text-to-speech, and more. Files can be saved as .mov files or exported directly to YouTube.
  • DoInk($4.99)–Great animation tool lets users create frame-by-frame animations or use a built-in library of backgrounds and props. Animations can be shared via the DoInk website.

    Flipboom Draw HD

    FlipBoom Draw HD

  • ShowMe (FREE)–Record drawings and narration on a virtual whiteboard. Share via the ShowMe website. Great tool for recording instructional videos. Videos can be shared via Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or email.
  • ScreenChomp  (FREE)– Another wonderful tool for recording drawings and voice narration. Videos can be shared to ScreenChomp’s website without an account, where they can be viewed by URL or downloaded as .mpeg files.
  • ArtStudio ($2.99)–Great drawing tool with a wide variety of brushes, textures, and effects. Create layered drawings, similar to Photoshop or Illustrator.
  • DrawCast (FREE)–Simple but powerful drawing tool. Drawings can be saved or shared via email or Facebook.
  • FlipBoom Draw HD ($4.99)–Frame-by-frame animation app suitable for even younger students. Animations can be stored in the image gallery or shared by email or through YouTube.
  • Scribble Kid (FREE)–Simple drawing app suitable for primary students. Includes shape and background library.
  • Drawing Pad ($1.99)–Fun drawing tool with a wide range of pencils, pens, brushes, stickers, and more. Suitable for elementary aged students. Drawings can be stored to the image gallery or shared via Twitter, Facebook, or email.
  • Singing Fingers (FREE)–Create drawings by touching the screen while making sounds, then swipe over them to play back.

Creative Thinking

  • Total Recall (FREE)–Nice, basic mindmapping tool. Create mindmaps and share via email as .pdf files or as images.
  • iBrainstorm (FREE)–Cool brainstorm tool that uses drawing tools and sticky notes. Best of all, users can install the free iBrainstorm Companion app, which lets multiple users connect to the same project for collaboration. Share products through email or save as images.
  • Mindjet (FREE)–Tons of features for a free app. Mindjet lets users build powerful mindmaps including images and links. Users can share as .pdf files via email or sync directly to DropBox or the Mindjet Connect website, where maps can be shared or edited collaboratively.
  • SimpleMind+ (FREE)–Stylish mindmapping app allows for creation of large maps in a range of styles. Maps can be shared via email as .pdf or image files. A desktop application is available (paid) that lets users share and collaborate on maps directly on a Mac or PC.

Creative Writing

  • StoryLines (FREE)–App lets students create collaborative stories. Participants take turns alternately adding text or drawings to produce creative stories, which can be shared via Facebook.
  • StoryKit (FREE)–Create digital storybooks using text, images, and drawings. Upload stories to the Storykit servers and share with others via URL.
  • StoryRobe ($.99)–Create digital stories using images and recorded narration. Stories can be shared via email or by uploading directly to YouTube.
  • DemiBooks Composer (FREE)–Create interactive books, including effects such as sound, motion, gravity, and more. Books can be shared via iTunes or Dropbox (must be viewed in Composer).
  • Scribble Press (FREE)–Create books from drawings, photos, or text, share with a global audience as ebooks or order printed copies.

Video

  • DV Prompter (FREE)–Simple teleprompter app.
  • Green Screen Movie FX ($1.99)–Tool for creating green screen effects, superimposing video on top of other video.
  • Silent Film Director ($.99)–Create retro-looking videos, including 6 filters, included soundtracks, speed controls, more.
  • Splice (FREE)–Remarkably powerful free video editing tool, includes ability to use photos, videos, soundtracks (included), special effects, adjust speed, more.
  • Super 8 ($.99)–Create cool, retro videos, including scratched film effects, credits, titles, more.
  • ReelDirector ($1.99)–Easy-to-use video editor, allows use of video or images, cropping clips, special effects, layered music/sound, more.
  • Videolicious (FREE)–Create short movies with video introduction, narration, background music, and transition effects.
  • 8mm ($1.99)–Another tool for creating retro video effects; includes 7 filters, ability to include filmstrip sounds, jitter effect.

Design

  • Home Design HD (FREE)–Create 3D floor plans, including furniture, doors, windows, custom floors, walls, etc. Images can’t be saved by the free version, so use the iPad/iPod screen grab feature to save.
Games
  • Casey’s Contraptions ($2.99)–Solve puzzles by creating virtual Rube Goldberg machines, or simply create your own imaginative machine.
  • Scribblenauts Remix ($.99)–Use imaginative means to get characters through, over, or around obstacles and enable them to complete a variety of tasks.

5 Most Impactful Technologies of 2010-2011

As the 2010-2011 school year comes to a close, I wanted to reflect on the technologies that have had the biggest impact on teaching and learning this year in our district. Some are primarily teaching tools, while others have had a huge impact on the way kids learn and demonstrate their learning. In no particular order…

  • iPad &  iPod Touch. I’ve owned an iPod Touch for sometime now (1st generation), and I love the device. Still, the first time I got my hands onipad aniPad, I was somewhat, but not overly impressed. It was shiny and from Apple, something I am admittedly susceptible to as an official cult member. However, the earliest apps I tried were somewhat less than dazzling. What turned my opinion quickly 180° was what I observed when I took the iPad home and put it in the hands of my then 6- and 9-year old children. The little digital natives snatched it eagerly and set off to exploring, needing no instructions from their digital immigrant father. They navigated, opened, and mastered apps with incredible ease and enthusiasm. A similar experience has occurred in an increasing number of classrooms in Birdville, and schools are using Title 1 and grant funds to add the powerful tools as viable solutions in an economic climate that makes traditional computers (and their pricy software, especially) less so. As an elementary computer, especially, there is nothing out there as perfectly suited. As an example, my first grade teacher wife uses 2 iPads in her literacy program. Students read along with interactive Dr. Suess books (and others), practice writing words and constructing sentences, test their spelling knowledge, and create stories. Her only lament is that she has just the two, and she has plans to add more as soon as possible. Oh, and I should mention that the apps have become more amazing, as developers have figured out the best ways to take advantage of the iDevices’ capabilities.
  • Interactive Whiteboards. Some in the educational technology world lament (even loath) the use of IWBs as being too teacher-centric, proposing that money would be better spent on student devices. While they make strong points in support of their case, such an argument stems from the misguided belief that the teacher should never be the central focal point of the classroom. Reality is quite different, and there is a vital role for teachers to play, at times, as the “expert” sharing knowledge. It also fails to recognize the ways IWBs can be used by students as active participants in lessons, simulations, games, etc. In Birdville, the numbers of IWBs is currently fairly small but growing, with at least 4 elementary schools now having them in every classroom, and numerous other campuses making plans for similar implementation. Teachers frequently say that the boards have increased attention and engagement, and that they have become critical tools used every school day.
  • Cellphones. This technology continues to be controversial, but it’s impact in many classrooms is beyond debate.ipower Teachers are taking advantage of the ever-increasing numbers of students coming to school equipped with pocket-sized computers more powerful than what was on our desktops just a few years ago. They are already Internet-capable and have text-messaging abilities, offering another tool for communication. And, as an added benefit, today’s phones have still and video cameras that exceed most of the available cameras from only a few years back. These features make cellphones useful for information gathering, communication, collaboration, and creativity. The knock on cellphones in our district continues to be their role as a disruptive force, as students in many cases have yet to discern what appropriate, educational use looks like. Because of that, many teachers still ban their appearance in their classrooms. Still, the numbers of teachers embracing their use is steadily growing. For more information on our efforts, visit our mobile devices blog.
  • Blended Classrooms/Online Learning. Birdville has had online courses for several years now. These were typically the traditional, 100% online type, however. More recently, we are experiencing a steady growth in the numbers of teachers who are finding ways to take traditional, campus-based courses into the online world. Tools being used range from district-hosted Moodle servers to online resources such as Edmodo and Facebook. Students engage in discussions, download notes and assignments, view teacher-created videos or playlists, and more.
  • web20croppedWeb 2.0. This overlaps a little with the category above, but it is much broader. The biggest distinction here is the way that our students’ use of Web 2.0 has enabled them to created endless amounts of content on the Internet. Students are telling stories, using tools like Storybird, VoiceThread, and Animoto. They are collaborating using tools such as Wallwisher, Todaysmeet, and Google Docs. Wikis and blogs are giving students the opportunity to share their knowledge and their writing skills with an authentic audience, adding meaningfulness and motivation to their learning. YouTube is being embraced as a tool for creativity, sharing classroom/campus events, and knowledge-gathering. What is truly exciting is that such tools are really no longer seen as novelties. Rather, they are becoming as commonplace as pencils or textbooks in many of our classrooms.

Live Blogging from ISTE 2010: Learning with Mobile Devices

Session title: Mobile Devices + Web 2.0 = Engaged and Empowered Learners

Click Here

The Cell Phone Nemesis?

cellphoneLast Friday, I had a very thoughtful and thought-provoking conversation with a teacher at our alternative high school. The subject was our district’s cellphone-friendly policy, which recognizes the potential positive applications of these increasingly powerful, pocket-sized computers. The discussion focused (in my mind, at least) on the need for a clear plan when a school or district implements such a policy. While I assured him plans were in the works to offer clear guidelines for students and teachers, I had to admit that no explicit direction was in place when the policy went into effect. I am a strong supporter of the plan, but the teacher, who I truly respect, offered some insightful anecdotes based upon his experiences so far. Three that stood out with me follow.

  • Students are often (usually, in fact) unaware of the impolite nature of their cellphone use. It isn’t unheard of to have a student actually take a call during class. Illustrating this adroitly, I checked an email on my Droid while we were speaking. It was nothing more than a glance lasting 4 or 5 seconds, but for that time, my attention left the teacher and communicated, albeit unintentionally, that my email was more important than our conversation. For many today, manners seem like an antiquated concept, but they are vital to an increasingly cooperative, collaborative society. I had to sheepishly apologize and agree completely with his point.
  • Cell phones are not always useful or appropriate in the classroom. Teachers who forbid their use during class may be viewed as some type of rebellious dinosaur. Just like any technology, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and teachers need to have the ability to make their own decisions about how to use or not use the devices in ways that best meet the needs of students and the requirements of the curriculum.
  • Not all students have cell phones, much less the more powerful smart phones. Equity of access is a real issue, particularly in low-income schools. I asserted that we should still try to take advantage of the resources which were available, but I see his point.

We are in the embryonic stage in our cell phone policy. Teachers and administrators would immediately confiscate phones that were seen being used in school barely over a year ago. Teachers need to see examples of their applicability in the curriculum, and students need real guidance in the proper and appropriate ways they can take advantage of this freedom. There is immense potential in the use of these little tools in the curriculum, but it is imperative that schools do their research and formulate clear plans for acceptable and effective use, or teachers will grow frustrated and resistant in a hurry, and students will end up missing out on the opportunity to leverage a powerful technology.

Image credit

Reflections on Emerging Technologies Course

I am wrapping up a doctoral course on emerging technologies this week. I have to admit, this has been the most enjoyable course I’ve taken to date. The subject matter was right down my alley, and there was much more interaction in this course than in previous classes (I’m working on an online degree.). I wanted to take the time to share a few things that were particularly significant to me as I plan for next year.

Games in education

While I have read many wonderful pieces on the blogs of such educators as David Warlick on the subject, gaming is not something I have devoted much thought or energy to. The research makes it clear that games are an effective and engaging way to promote higher level cognitive skills, such as problem solving, collaboration, and creativity. They also reinforce many academic skills, and they do so in a setting which kids actually enjoy. I will be looking for ways to bring games and simulations more attention in our district next year.

Moodle

Learning content management systems, like Moodle, are the present and immediate future of our profession. They make learning objects easily accessible by teachers and students, they facilitate collaboration and communication, they integrate Web 2.0 tools wonderfully, and they draw upon the collective knowledge and experiences of educators. The limited exploration I have done with Moodle this quarter has convinced me that it is well within the capabilities of our teachers and the time is now to get the implementation rolling in BISD.

Synchronous collaboration tools

This includes such presentation resources as Elluminate, WebEx, and Dimdim, but it also includes simpler tools, such as Skype and chat rooms. I received very positive feedback from participants in my first Dimdim professional development session, and I will be offering many more next year, perhaps even outside of the district. The convenience and extensive feature set simply make these tools essential for professional learning, and they go far beyond some of the existing online tools used in our district, which are asynchronous in nature. They also have many classroom applications. Elluminate will be available next year, and it will be exciting to see how we utilize the tool, particularly if we can find effective ways to incorporate it into our expanding number of online courses. It just might be an effective method of decreasing attrition and creating a greater sense of community among our online students.

Cell phones/personal electronic devices

Our district’s cell phone policy is now much more open, meaning it will be essential to explore and articulate best practices for utilizing the ever-increasing capabilities of the devices in the coming year. There will be an adjustment period for teachers, without a doubt. However, I truly foresee the wireless Internet capabilities, text messaging, and video/photographic capabilities being put to some creative and powerful applications.

Enemies to Productivity?

I just finished watching a thought-provoking presentation by Iqbal Quadir. Iqbal asserts that technology, particularly those technologies that have facilitated communication, have been critical to the growth and success of democratic societies and the economic welfare of their citizens. He states,

“If citizens can network and make themselves more organized and productive, so that their voices are heard, so then things would improve.”

Quadir, who grew up in Bangladesh, where the ratio of people to phones was 500 to 1, also states that the telephone is a weapon against poverty, because increasing connectivity results in increased productivity. Phones act like rivers or highways, improving reliability and enabling specialization. Quadir put his ideas into action, leaving a New York banking job to set up a rural cellular network in his home country. The results have had a dramatic impact, increasing productivity, personal welfare, and the country’s GNP.

This presentation struck home with me, as I considered the general view of cellphones in schools today and a new direction being taken by Birdville, my home district. By and large, cellphones are considered to be nuisances, and, if allowed at all, they are only to be used outside of classroom hours or in the case of an emergency. Within the classroom, they are detrimental to the learning process, distracting students from the “important” matters of the curriculum. Here is a typical scenario pulled from last week’s headlines. Through a new, more progressive policy phones are allowed only in high school, and only if out of sight and turned off. Notice this statement: “Last year, 1,253 high school students were cited for violating the cell phone policy.” Clearly, there are serious discipline issues in this school (Sarcasm intended–imagine how much instructional time and effort is used wasted enforcing such policies.).

I’m truly not intending to pick on this particular district, because I do believe it is representative of the typical No phonesAmerican school system. A technology that has the ability to facilitate communication between students, parents, teachers, scientists, researchers, astronauts, doctors, politicians, etc. is viewed as a distraction. A tool that can be used to take photos, record video/audio. and access the Internet is seen as a means for students to cheat (As if it requires a cell phone to accomplish that. Might as well ban paper and pencils, while we’re at it.). Rather than address their use in a forward-thinking, progressive manner, most schools opt for the easy route, which is, of course, to eliminate the “threat.” How sadly ironic it is that in a land where cellphones are moving toward equaling the total population (230 million subscribers by the end of 2006), where the devices are being put into the hands of students of almost all ages (My 2nd grade daughter has classmates who own them.), and in a time when the power they possess surpasses the capabilities of the computers I grew up with, we can’t find a way to leverage them in every classroom.

Imagine applying the same concepts put forth by Quadir in the classroom. Cell phones used to connect students, used to have instant access to information, used to communicate information instantly between teachers, students, parents. Is it not conceivable that the results would mirror those in Bangladesh? Might students become empowered and connected, and their productivity and power actually increase?

Next year will be the first in my own district to put this to the test.  We are starting a new era of cell-phone-friendly schools, as we attempt to take advantage of their capabilities and find new ways of using them in our curriculum. It will be interesting, particularly to see how some reluctant teachers respond to the new policy. Students will have to display responsibility and discipline to make it work, as well. If teachers can adapt, and if students demonstrate as much energy, creativity, and excitement in the actual implementation as they did in our recent student technology summit, the potential impact is quite significant. I will be posting further on this as we move forward with this. I’ll also be digging for more success stories of implementation, so please share if you have any!

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References:

Cell Phone Use Exploding (2007). Retrieved April 23, 2009, from http://china.usc.edu/ShowAverageDay.aspx?articleID=663&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1.

Image credit:

No cell phones!

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TCEA 2009: What’s New in Web 2.0?

Doing two sessions this year at TCEA. The first one was this morning, and we (co-worker Jon Norris, geeky aunt, Connie Tubbs, and myself) shared the basics of setting up and using the Nintendo Wiimote as an interactive whiteboard. This afternoon, the session will be on Web 2.0. I did this session at TCEA last year, and it is one of my favorite topics. This year has given me a great deal of trouble, though, as I try to narrow down a list of several hundred of my favorite sites to about 25, in order to be able to let folks out in under 5 hours. Here is the list I have compiled, tentatively (I still have a couple of hours!), of the sites I will be sharing. Actually, the sites preceded by an asterisk are the first priority sites. The others may not make the cut, especially if time runs short. If I have neglected to include any of your favorite, new Web 2.0 sites, please share them with me!

Student/Organization Tools

*http://www.rememberthemilk.com/ (Tool for creating to-do lists, reminders, more; access via phone, work offline, use with Google calendar and iGoogle, and more.)

http://notestar.4teachers.org/ (Online note-taking tool from the creators of Rubistar; teacher and student features.)

http://www.mynoteit.com/ (Versatile, social note-taking and organization tool.)

*http://evernote.com/ (Very useful note-taking and organization tool; write notes, upload images, send text/pics from phones, clip websites, more.)

Filesharing/Collaboration

*http://drop.io/ (Very easy filesharing tool; share via web, email, phone, etc.)

http://collab.io/ (Simple tool for creating collaborative, online work spaces using participant emails.)

*http://www.remobo.com/ (Create private, virtual networks between computers.)

http://usend.io/ (Send files up to 100mb via email.)

http://www.fileshaker.com/ (Free online file storage up to 10 gigs.)

http://www.docstoc.com/ (Online document sharing with the ability to tag documents for search engine recognition and embed documents into websites.)

https://www.yugma.com/ (Free desktop sharing tool for up to 20 participants.)

Mind-mapping

*http://www.mindmeister.com/ (Create and share mind maps online.)

*http://www.mywebspiration.com (Online version of the popular Inspiration software; great tool for collaborative brainstorming, planning, more.)

Bookmarks

http://www.bookmarkg.com/ (Fairly simple and straightforward social bookmarking site.)

*http://www.diigo.com (Social bookmarking site with lots of great features, including ability to mark up sites, share with groups, friends, etc.)

Videoconferencing

http://www.palbee.com/index.aspx# (Free video-conferencing tool.)

*http://mebeam.com/ (Probably the easiest, most basic video-conference site on the web; create a room and invite friends.)

Video

*http://www.viddler.com/ (Shared videos plus ability to leave time-specific comments, tags.)

http://keepvid.com/ (Useful tool lets you download videos in multiple formats from a variety of sites.)

*http://www.selfcast.com (Create live streaming video channels; chat with viewers.)

*http://www.mogulus.com/ (Create live broadcasts with lots of extras, such as embedded images, text, etc.)

*http://qik.com/ (Live video streaming from a wide variety of phone models)

*http://www.stickam.com (Live video streaming, video chat for up to 12 participants, slideshow and music sharing, plus mobile streaming for some Nokia phones)

Images

*http://www.snapily.com/ (Create photo prints that are 3-dimensional or display motion.)

http://photosynth.net/Default.aspx (Cool tool from Microsoft creates fantastic panoramic images from multiple pictures.)

*http://animoto.com/ (Create beautifully animated slideshows, complete with musical accompaniment; free full version for educators.)

*http://pixelpipe.com/ (Allows users to upload images to many sites through one portal.)

http://280slides.com/ (Create/share multimedia slideshows, upload existing PowerPoint shows, search for images/videos while working in the site.)

Office Apps

*http://sliderocket.com/ (Flash-based, online slideshow creation tool.)

http://www.slideboom.com/ (Slideshow sharing site)

Website Creation/Wikis

*http://www.weebly.com/ (Great, free website creation tool; features standard and blog pages, drag-and-drop interface, more.)

RSS

*http://www.tabbloid.com/ (Use RSS feeds to create a printable, pdf newsletter.)

Miscellaneous

*http://www.verbalearn.com/ (Students create custom vocabulary study lists and mp3 files.)

http://www.weblin.com/index.php

*http://forvo.com/ (Site that is attempting to create audio files with pronunciations of all of the words in the world in their native tongues.)

http://www.popfly.com/ (Free online game and mashup creation tool from Microsoft.)

*http://cloudo.com/ (Cloud computing platform; access files from any web-connected computer.)

*http://tikatok.com/ (Student book writing and illustrating tool; students can order hard or soft copies for about $20.)

http://fo.reca.st/surveys/home (Create embeddable surveys, complete with multimedia elements.)

*http://mystudiyo.com/ (Create interactive, embeddable quizzes; include graphics, video, images.)

*http://www.flowgram.com/ (Exciting tool for creating interactive presentations incorporating images, audio, video, and PowerPoint.)

*http://www.thebroth.com (Collaboratively create works of art, chatting with collaborators as you work.)

*http://www.bookglutton.com/ (Site where users read shared materials and participate in discussions; users can upload own content, too.)

SMS/Microblogging

*http://www.yammer.com/ (Create private, corporate microblogging networks.)

*http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/socialmedia/edutwitter.html (List of educators using Twitter)

Blogs

http://www.backtype.com/

*http://posterous.com (Create a blog using email messages. Include images, video, links, more. Can also be used for groups, simply by adding members’ email addresses.)

Website Tools

http://embedit.in/ (Allows users to embed documents, videos, and text files in web pages.)

Dwight’s Google Apps Link

http://www.birdville.k12.tx.us/instruct_tech/googleapps.html (List of some great applications by Google.)

Presentation Video

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