I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving! Thank you to every teacher who gave the first 2-Minute Tech Challenge a shot. If you did not complete that one yet, have no fear–you are welcome to complete it at any time between now and the end of the challenge, March 31st.
This challenge focuses on TED Ed. Many folks are familiar with TED (technology, entertainment, and design), the series of talks that have brought some of the world best innovators and creators into the spotlight. TED Ed is spinoff of the original, and it adds some great features that make it useful as a teaching and learning tool. Watch the video for a (very) quick introduction and to learn about the challenge.
That’s it. When you’ve completed the challenge, be sure and post the link in the comments below. You’re comments or questions regarding the TED Ed resource and your thoughts on it as a teaching tool are very welcome, too.
Unless one has managed to somehow avoid all professional conferences, publications, and conversations for the past year or so, we all have heard the buzz around the hot, new trend in classroom practice: flipped instruction. The concept first caught my eye in 2007, when I saw a news stories about Colorado educators Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, the “godfathers” of flipped classrooms. I was truly intrigued at the time and curious about what the long-term potential was for their innovative approach. Fast forward to the present, and the concept is the hottest movement afoot in the field. Several initial studies seem to validate proponents’ support of flipped learning. The current issue of Tech & Learning includes a Classroomwindow survey in which an astounding 99% of teachers who used flipped learning this year say they will use it again next year, and 88% report increased job satisfaction. 67% report higher student test scores, and 80% have seen improved student motivation. Obviously, there is enough substance here to warrant further exploration.
To this end, we offered our first courses in flipped classrooms this summer as part of our technology training offerings. These were designed as exploratory courses for our teachers, many of whom had no knowledge of the flipped classroom concept prior to attending. We employed something of a flipped professional development model at the outset–having them work in groups to look at articles, videos, and examples online, then create presentations explaining what they had learned. Their understanding of the concept was truly exciting, and there was a real, palpable buzz about the possibilities for our schools. The graphic below shows a summary of their products. Click to enlarge.
Note that they perceptively understood that flipped classrooms are about more than videos or switching classwork and homework. They are about putting greater responsibility for learning in the hands of students and equipping them with the tools to succeed. The teacher becomes the coach/mentor/guide, and students research, collaborate, create, and share what they have learned.
We spent the remainder of the class learning about technology tools to facilitate flipped classrooms, including online videos, podcasts, screencasts, etc. They were truly some of the most exciting professional development sessions I have been privileged to help facilitate.
Thanks to those brave risk-takers who participated this summer. I look forward to seeing how this benefits the kids in your classrooms this year!
Because there are just not enough app lists, I decided I needed to throw in one more. There are tons of lists that tout subject-specific apps for students at all levels. The following apps have broad applications in virtually any subject area, and they promote important higher level skills such as critical thinking, analyzing, researching, planning, and communicating in engaging and powerful ways. The biggest advantage each offers over similar tools on traditional desktops or laptops is their fantastic usability and short learning curves. They can also accomplish these things on the go–at the museum, on the bus, on the camping trip, etc., potentially turning any event into a true learning experience.
Catch Notes (FREE) – Fantastic tool for taking and organizing (via tags) text, audio, or visual notes, independently or collaboratively. Notes can be accessed via apps or through the Catch.com website.
Pearltrees (FREE) – Pearltrees is a creative social bookmarking tool that lets individuals or groups create collections of bookmarks organized into webs by subject. It is a fantastic organizational tool, and it gives students a powerful visual representation of their saved resources. The app walks you through setting up a mobile Safari plugin that lets you add “pearls” on the go.
VoiceThread (FREE) – Still one of my favorite digital storytelling tools, VoiceThread’s app makes the creation process even faster and easier. Still need to sign up for a free account at Ed.Voicethread, but now VTs can be created on the go, using the built-in cameras and microphones of the iPad or iPod.
Explain Everything ($2.99) – Simply a phenomenal screen-casting tool, Explain Everything lets students create narrated, annotated presentations that include drawings, images, websites, and videos. Resulting movies can be shared in a wide variety of ways. The applications are limitless and could certainly fit any subject area. This is perhaps the most powerful tool on this list.
Spreaker Radio (FREE) – Spreaker is my new favorite podcasting/broadcasting tool. The web-based platform has as good of a free podcast system as I’ve ever seen, incorporating tools reserved for paid services. The app lets you or your students broadcast live Internet shows on the go or record shows for future listening. It’s very intuitive for students and only requires that an account be set up on the Spreaker site to use.
ShowMe (FREE) – ShowMe’s ease of use and versatility make it a must-have. Students can create narrated videos explaining anything they can draw, write, or illustrate. Videos are saved on the ShowMe site, also free.
Popplet ($4.99) – Popplet is a slick tool for creating mind maps, flow charts, or other graphic organizers. Charts can include text, drawings, or images, and can be exported as .pdf or image files. Use Popplet for brainstorming, group planning, project management, process illustration, or many other applications.
Animation Studio ($2.99) – The best animation creation tool for the money, by far. The feature list of Animation Studio is too long to list, but features like text-to-speech, the library of animated characters, music tools, YouTube sharing, etc. make it the best. Students can use this app to create original videos describing, depicting, or explaining anything imaginable.
Dragon Dictation (FREE) – Dragon Dictation is an oldie (in iOS terms, anyway) but a goodie. It turns spoken words into printed text, and it does so pretty darned accurately. Great for many applications, such as allowing ESL students to transcribe their English practice or other special population accommodations. Also makes a fantastic note-taking tool (SOME people even use it while driving, I have heard…cough.).
Google Earth (FREE) – Still a powerful tool for research, the Google Earth app includes many of the standard maps and search tools, plus a fantastic gallery of user-currated maps and tours. Kids can research settings in literature (using built-in Wikipedia links), map historical events, study geologic or political processes, and more.
That’s my list. What apps would you add that could be used across the curriculum?
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!
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.
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.
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
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 ($1.99)–Fun drawing tool with a wide range of pencils, pens, brushes, stickers, and more. Suitable for elementary aged students. Drawings can be stored to the image gallery or shared via Twitter, Facebook, or email.
Singing Fingers (FREE)–Create drawings by touching the screen while making sounds, then swipe over them to play back.
Total Recall (FREE)–Nice, basic mindmapping tool. Create mindmaps and share via email as .pdf files or as images.
iBrainstorm (FREE)–Cool brainstorm tool that uses drawing tools and sticky notes. Best of all, users can install the free iBrainstorm Companion app, which lets multiple users connect to the same project for collaboration. Share products through email or save as images.
Mindjet (FREE)–Tons of features for a free app. Mindjet lets users build powerful mindmaps including images and links. Users can share as .pdf files via email or sync directly to DropBox or the Mindjet Connect website, where maps can be shared or edited collaboratively.
SimpleMind+ (FREE)–Stylish mindmapping app allows for creation of large maps in a range of styles. Maps can be shared via email as .pdf or image files. A desktop application is available (paid) that lets users share and collaborate on maps directly on a Mac or PC.
StoryLines (FREE)–App lets students create collaborative stories. Participants take turns alternately adding text or drawings to produce creative stories, which can be shared via Facebook.
StoryKit (FREE)–Create digital storybooks using text, images, and drawings. Upload stories to the Storykit servers and share with others via URL.
StoryRobe ($.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.
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.
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.
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.
Several recent opportunities to work with groups of teachers in the past couple of weeks has prompted this post. An issue that is important for teachers and students to understand is copyright law. This is particularly true as they engage their students in creating so many marvelous digital products, many of which will be shared online. I’ve heard a couple of common statements/questions repeatedly:
If something isn’t marked as copyrighted, is it copyrighted?
Can I use something if I bought it (e.g. music from a purchased CD or download)?
The answer to the first question is “yes”. Original published works don’t have to have a copyright statement to be copyrighted. The answer to the second is “maybe”, depended upon several factors and multiple legal opinions. It is fairly clear, though, that using a large part or all of a song, even if purchased, is not acceptable without permission from its publisher or creator.
Fortunately, there are so many resources that are acceptable, teachers and students don’t have to consult with lawyers in order to find usable resources. Many are available online, and, by simply using the advanced search features of Google and other search engines, it is easy to determine which ones are okay to use. Let’s use a Google search for images of “the Alamo” as an example. This search returned a whopping 2.7 MILLION images, the majority of which have copyrights that protect them from reuse. Now, click on the Advanced Search link. Scroll down the page and find the line labelled Usage Rights. Click the dropdown menu and select Labelled for Reuse.
Google Advanced Search
Click the Google Search button in the upper right. The results now are reduced to 154, but all have been specifically licensed by their creators for use by others. Each source may have specific limitations, which can usually be found listed on their respective pages. Most often, they simply require a citation. The same process can provide useable results from a general Google web search. Yahoo! offers a similar search feature.
In addition to advanced search tools, there are numerous sites that offer a range of media that is permissible for use in student projects. I’ve listed just a tiny sampling below, to get things started. Many more can be found by simply searching for public domain or Creative Commons sources online. The critical thing is to raise our students’ awareness of the importance of obeying the laws and to equip them with the tools to do so easily.
Schools are popular targets of those who wish to find a scapegoat for every societal ill from a sour economy to the pitiful season the Dallas Cowboys put us through this year. I believe we are part of the problem, because we don’t do enough to shout about our successes from every rooftop in every community. While I don’t pretend all schools are equally successful, neither are they equal failures. The budget crisis looming for Texas and for its schools, in particular, has heightened my own awareness of the need to become self-promoters. I intend to devote more time than ever before in sharing the ways that our schools are using technology to engage students like never before and to give them opportunities to learn in a real way, infused with 21st century tools and skills. Our communities and leaders need to see how amazing things are happening, not just the negative, isolated events that make our newscasts.
In the spirit of this resolution, I wanted to share some of the ways that Web 2.0 technologies have had a powerful impact on our students, teachers, and schools in Birdville. It has been just 4 short years since I had the opportunity to share my vision for Web 2.0 with our district’s leadership team. It has exceeded my expectations in many ways, and is the most gratifying thing I’ve been a part of as an instructional technology specialist. It has not only made learning more relevant and engaging. It has also thrust our district into the national spotlight, as we have been cited for our progressive stance toward use of the vast Internet resources available. We have been assembling a slide show that highlights how tools such as YouTube, Glogster, Google Docs, Xtranormal, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, wikis, podcasts, Skype, and many more are being put to powerful use in the district. The show is embedded below, or is alternately viewable here. More examples will be added in the coming weeks. I hope they might provide some inspiration for teachers looking for ways to use the technologies in the curriculum.