And That’s the Way It Is…

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The famous Walter Cronkite would always sign off with the catch phrase, “and that’s the way it is.”  News anchors through the years have delivered summaries of important world events.  From Cronkite to Rather and of course Peter Mansbridge, trusted reporters deliver the facts.  So Krista, Liz and I thought it might be fun to try a  news cast for our summary of learning.  They are both colleagues, part of my core team and an incredible support for me in my teaching.  We had never worked with green screens before and it was a great opportunity to learn some new tech and have some fun. This semester has been an incredible journey and a great learning opportunity.  Gaining a deeper understanding of the theories behind tech implementation in the classroom was a big part of my learning during this class.   I had some previous knowledge of theory behind education but my practice has changed now to the point where I analyze each activity using tech to ensure the usage of tech for the right reasons.  Theory has also played a role in the ways that I examine my current practice and the ways that I teach.  In addition, The course created a great community of teachers and learners interested and engaged in pushing each other further along the edtech path.  Also, It offered a great opportunity to learn some new tricks, tips and tech tools to help us in our professional lives.  I especially enjoyed learning about the new technologies that may one day be the norm for teaching and learning such as virtual and augmented reality.  It seems as though the more we learn about edtech, the more there is to know.  I resolved as I was reviewing the course to keep 4 things in mind in the coming year.

  1. Evaluate tech tools based on theory
  2. Design the task and accompanying tech with authenticity
  3. Master tech tools that are useful in your practice
  4. Don’t over extend, take your time

There is no rush to the finish line in learning about edtech.  We are each learning at our own pace and doing what works in our own contexts.  The constant shifting in technology will always mean that we are trying to catch up.  Never forget where tech started.  Pencils and chalkboards were once considered cutting edge.  So I’ll simply end by saying, that’s the way it is…”

Please enjoy…

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Virtual and Augmented Reality: The New Wave

I have blogged previously about Google cardboard and its implications, which by the way look extremely promising.  The draw factor for me is the ability to bring world experiences to students that may never travel.  Teachers can direct their students in field trips to exotic places, historical landmarks, or scientific labs.  2016 has been dubbed the year of Virtual Reality (VR) and it seems to be living up to its namesake with seemingly every major tech firm diving headfirst into the VR or augmented reality (AR) space.  As we witnessed earlier this year with the release of Pokemon Go, the idea of being able to merge the world around you with with digital augmentation is an enticing idea for users.  People flocked outside in droves to try and capture as many rare Pokemons as they could find.  Not only does VR and AR increase engagement, it also can be directly tied to learning outcomes and students can make real world connections to what they’re learning.  Nearpod is another virtual field trip provider that seems like a great addition to the classroom.  It allows teachers to upload, create and utilize virtual field trips with students using computers, tablets or their own devices.  Teachers can then also add follow-up questions for assessment purposes.

The 360 degree Panoramas of places around the world can be navigated by clicking left or right or through the accelerometer on your device.  These experiences are very immersive and allow students to use observational skills to make connections.

In the integration of any piece of edtech, the question always remains, “how can this technology be meaningfully integrated into the classroom?”  Well, a good place to start is to read what others have tried already.  Two Guys and Some IPads have explored the idea of VR and AR in the classroom and have provided a comprehensive list of ideas and tools to get started.  screen568x568With Elements 4D for example, you can interact with wooden element blocks that react with each other using the augmented reality app.  What a great way to study chemistry.  Of course there are also many apps like Anatomy 4D which allow an augmented image to appear on textbook pages or printouts.  Then there’s Aurasma which was new to me.  Bill and Logan did a great job of presenting this tool and I have to say, as a French Immersion teacher this was the tool that most appealed to me.  The ability to embed translations onto images or words printed on paper is amazing and I hope to be able to utilize this tool in my classroom.  I teach Health, Math and Wellness, and I could see this tool being used in all three instances.  In Wellness for example, warm-up key phrases such as lunges, high knees, or even skills like, layup and wrist-shot could be placed around the gym.  Students could then hover over the word to see a video of proper technique and how to perform the task.  Students could even make their own gif files of themselves performing the task and link them in Aurasma to different pieces of Phys Ed equipment.  I hope to give this idea a try in the next few weeks.

In Math, the images or vocabulary words could be linked to examples or problems to solve as students move around the room.  They could also be linked to video examples of how to solve the problem.  I think this would be especially cool in geometry, volume, and surface area problems in which you could embed 3D objects to help students visualize the object.  In Health, the possibilities are endless really as students could be exploring human anatomy, effects of drugs and alcohol, or even infectious diseases.

Another neat tool that I came across this week was Splash.  This is a tool that allows you to make 360 degree videos and post them to social media.  You can label items in the videos, commentate and also ebed in a website as you can see below.  The app is compatible with VR sets as well as Google Cardboard.  I think it could be a neat presentation tool for students to use or a simple way for teachers to take students on a field trip or show them something nearby without having to book a bus and drive there.  Click the link in this tweet to see an example.

There are a few problems with the app as it is still being refined.  You can tell that the video isn’t stitched together very well.  In addition, the audio will only record for about a minute or so.  It’s neat to see apps being developed that could one day allow us to interact with the world that others are experiencing.  I can’t begin to imagine what our students will be experiencing as far as tech developments in the future. As the technology improves I believe that students will be offered opportunities to make truly unique connections with the world around them.  However, I still question whether a balance must be struck between AR/VR and the real world?  Will we see more and more VR/AR in the classroom?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Assistive Technology: Putting A Stop To ‘Other’ing in Society

I have not had many experiences with assistive technology over the years but I will attempt to share my thoughts regarding the role of technology in levelling the playing field for students with disabilities or to enhance learning.  I have taught 2 students with hearing impairments over the years and they each required a microphone in order to hear what was going on in the classroom.  The 2 students approached this difficulty in differing ways however.  One student needed a sound system used in the classroom and thus students and teachers would talk into the microphone in order for her to hear.  The other student had a system that transmitted directly to his hearing aids and was therefore able to hear without the need for an amplifier.assistive-technology-1  It was interesting to see the other students’ reactions to the different systems.  In the first case, many of the students loved using the microphone for presentations and class discussions.  The microphone became similar to a talking stone that indicated when others should listen.  It became a bit more cumbersome at times but overall, it was a very positive experience.  I have also taught a student who had a personal laptop with Kursweil in order to help him take notes and complete assignments.  Students in all cases were very supportive and understanding.  I think one aspect that is often forgotten is the teaching around equity and what it means for student success.  I often hear the argument about fidgets from students that they believe it’s unfair if certain students receive special tools to use in class.  This is due to the fact that before any teaching is done on metacognition, students tend to see fidgets or even assistive technology as something that they should all have access to. When I first begin these conversations with Middle Years students I often give students a learning styles type of personal evaluation to start the conversation.  Then we talk about how each of us learns best.  Finally I have the kids do some writing about how they like to learn.  Photo Credit

The key here is to remember that the same solutions do not apply to all cases.  That is why pre-teaching around metacognition and student success is crucial.  The meaning of what success looks like for each student must be considered by both parents, students and teachers alike.  It may also mean that it is not simply those with physical or mental disabilities that have need of assistance.  These assistive technologies may mean something as simple as a pair of glasses for someone with poor vision or as complex as speech to text software for those who cannot speak.  Students often want to try some of the technologies to see if they fit with their needs.  However, I always make it clear that a person doesn’t wear glasses or hearing aids if they weren’t needed.  In the same way, evaluation of needs for learning supports is critical.  As we seek to help evaluate which students are in need of which specific aids, it is paramount that we keep in mind that not only should we as teachers seek to find tools but also to break down unjust barriers to enhance student success.    equity

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For example, it is not possible to remove someone’s inability to walk, however, we can remove barriers that keep that student from achieving.  Whereas equality provides the same supports for everyone, equity is much more fluid.  It encompasses anyone and everyone who may need a little help.  As Naomi states, the biggest barriers to successful AT integration are access and training.  Natalie also points out the need for PD on this subject as many teachers have little or no training and LRT’s are stretched thin.  In the video below, Sam is able to attend college classes and even take his own notes using his Ipad and computer.  Were Sam to have been born in another century, he would certainly not have access to these sorts of opportunities.  The world has been opened in an unprecedented way and the future will surely only continue to give freedom to those in need of some sort of assistance.  Sam can now feel like he can contribute and manage his own learning.

Those with extreme disabilities are in no way different from others.  As is mentioned by Henry Evans in the video below, if we both want to go 60 kph, we will both need a piece of assistive technology called a car.  Therefore it is also important to remember that assistive technology is not a sign of weakness or a problem.  Those who struggle to complete certain tasks have been ‘othered’ by society for long enough and by constantly keeping them down, we reassign power to those in the centre.  Unfortunately, it is often because of assistive technologies that students are viewed as different, strange or weird.  Because they are often very visible, it is crucial to have meaningful conversations with students at the outset about how we each learn in different ways and what equity looks like in the classroom.  I usually begin each year with these types of discussions for that very reason.  Not only does it help each student to take part in some self-reflection about their own learning style, it also allows us to discuss the ways in which we support one another as a learning community.

It will be an exciting time for students in the coming years.  Technology will allow those who have been previously marginalized to not only participate but also to thrive in our classrooms and in society.  I often have to repeatedly reevaluate my practice keeping in mind the various needs that exist in my classroom.  I still struggle with this and I wonder what tech tools or practices exist that allow teachers to plan with student success in mind?  What is the best way to implement these strategies?  Should we still be considering learning styles when we talk about AT?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Is it Meaningful?: Blending Assessment and Technology

assessment-icon-tab-340x340The marriage of assessment and technology has not been an easy one in many respects.  Documenting, assessing and tracking student learning has been done on paper for many years and even by me in my first few years of teaching.  (No, I’m not that old).  I used to type up my report cards as word documents and print them out for parents.  As technology improved in the world of assessment, many wondered how student records could be kept in digital formats securely.  In recent years teachers have been turning to technology to aid in providing meaningful feedback to enhance learning.  As Logan points out, why has assessment remained the one area in which technology has yet to be well utilized for many teachers?  One of the tools that I enjoy using for formative assessment is exit tickets that can be automatically graphed and analyzed to tell me which students have understood the content and which ones have not.  This information can be collected in a variety of ways. Photo Credit

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One simple way is to send out a Google Form.  Formative assessment can easily be achieved using non-tech methods such as exit slips, thumbs up`or thumbs down, think/pair/share, etc.  However, for many of the students in our division this makes the most sense because they all have a full GAFE suit.  The data is then sent into a google sheet for you or it can be graphed to show you what percent of your class understood the concept for that lesson.  Another tool I have used in the past is Padlet.  This tool allows students to populate a page with their responses to a question.  The responses can be arranged in various ways and it produces a quick visual to allow a check for understanding.  Because our students all participate in BYOD, I have not had a chance to try Plickers but the idea intrigues me.  It sounds like it would be ideal in a situation where students do not have their own devices.  Mentimeter and Polleverywhere are tools that can be used for even more immediate formative assessment and feedback as results can be displayed via projector in word clouds or by most used phrase.  This way, student feedback can be immediately provided verbally.  These are some of the formative assessment tools I plan to implement to a greater extent in my Math and Health classes.

formative-assessment

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Of course for the more summative pieces of work we must use tools that are consistent, measurable and testable.  Rubrics are one way to ensure that students work is assessed fairly and accurately against the outcomes being measured.  However, creating rubrics can be a daunting task.  From deciding on wording to how many marks to offer per category it can often be the task that requires the most time.  Assessing final pieces of student work can be even more difficult.  EdTEchTeacher has gathered a tidy group of rubric generators, tutorials, and samples.  These samples include rubrics for evaluating, wikis, graphic organizers, coding, podcasts, videos, digital story telling projects, websites/digital portfolios and even social media.  I plan to use these tools to hopefully increase the efficacy of my summative assessment techniques when I have students completing digital projects.  Attaching rubrics to each outcome measured and making these outcomes clear to students is one of the best ways to improve student learning.  It’s very easy to be caught up in the hype of a new piece of tech to have students demonstrate their learning but without the tools to assess these projects they may be deprived of meaning.

In the above video, several assessment tools are highlighted as being beneficial to the learning process.  I would agree with Mackenzie Zoner in that the use of technology in the assessment framework provides faster feedback and therefore higher value instruction and learning.  What does this look like in Phys Ed or Wellness?  As @PENathan has demonstrated, there are many useful tech tools that can play a major role in assessment in a Phys Ed or Wellness class.  In his blog, he describes an app smash project that sounds like a lot of fun.  In essence he had his students use GIFO to create a Gif of an exercise routine and then upload it to Google Slides to present their workout videos to the class.  @JoeyFeith aka The Physical Educator uses Giphy to create looping skills videos to showcase new skills to students and help them practice.

I think this way of melding physical activity and technology is a great idea and a huge motivator for kids to take pride in their physical and mental accomplishments.  These types of video tools could be very useful in solidifying movement techniques or sport skills.  Even apps like Coach’s Eye or IDoceo could play a key role in providing meaningful feedback to students about skills being acquired or how to improve their technique.

As has been mentioned before during this course, it can be extremely overwhelming trying to implement new technology in the classroom.  Therefore, my goal for these next few weeks is to use Gifs in some way to either assess or analyze student progress with a movement skill as well as being more purposeful in creating meaningful rubrics in digital format that can be attached in Google Classroom.  Finally, I hope to use formative assessment tools such as Google Forms or Padlet to inform instruction in Math and Health.  Once again it is paramount that learning outcomes be accompanied by meaningful feedback as soon as possible after the assessment has taken place.  Technology can play a significant role in this but as Andrew pointed out, it may not necessarily replace building relationships with students.  Sometimes, conversations or verbal interactions are a key component in solidifying learning.  Meaningful conversation may not ever be replaceable by technology.  Do you agree?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

The First Rule of Web 3.0: Stop Calling It That

The term Web 2.0 or 3.0 was never meant to be a version number according to Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media who coined the term Web 2.0.  It had more to do with the return of the internet after the dot-com bust.  However, regardless of what you call it, it does indicate a major shift in the thinking behind technology in education.  As I considered what Web 3.0 would mean for my teaching and the learning of my future students it become clear that things were very unclear in my head.  As Andrew aptly pointed out, “It’s the internet…but it’s really, really smart!”  I enjoy boiling things down to simplest terms as I’m always telling my math students, “don’t forget to simplify.”  In a 2012 article on the EDtech Website, Web 3.0 was summarized as,

“widely available videos as educational tools, the blending of the physical and digital worlds, and a web that’s capable of applying context to its processes.”

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Several key themes emerge from this article but some are not necessarily new.  The semantic web emerges as a major step forward in our interactions with computers. Conversing with computers à la StarTrek would potentially be more like a conversation with a human and, therefore, searching for information or creating content will hopefully be much more intuitive.  The second big shift will potentially occur in the implementation of wireless links between various physical objects.  Again, this is not new.  Vehicles have had computer technology for several years now and smart appliances and smart homes are more and more the norm.  So what does this mean for education?   Photo Credit

In many ways, it may be that the lines will be greatly blurred with respect to operating systems, devices and software.  At present, school divisions have to commit to single companies in many ways because there is now interactivity between systems, devices, and software.  Students bring a myriad of devices into school across the world each day.  I’ve experienced frustration with the fact that our division is largely Google based but many students use personal Apple devices for their video projects.  Uploading and sharing becomes an issue considering student privacy and we are left searching for dangles and dongles to help us show what we’ve learned on the projector.  Hopefully, in the new web, devices will be able to seamlessly interact to allow students to learn, share and grow as a community of digital citizens.

The second big piece that is already seen in education to some extent is the move to data analysis to help us determine whether learners are indeed learning.  The future classroom will have massive amounts of analytics based on the students experiences using adaptive tech.  Having a deep online profile will also be a must in the next web.  Video will also continue to be a major theme as the flipped classroom model becomes refined.  Students will also have access to personalized learning opportunities as we become more interconnected.  Teachers will hopefully be able to provide more 1-1 support to students as they navigate and plan their own learning pathways.

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Benita alludes to the fact that Web 2.0 is still in it’s infancy and I believe this is a key and crucial factor in the development of web advancements in education. Many teachers are just now coming to terms with things like project based learning, maker spaces, and inquiry based learning.  However, if we truly think about the developments that are eminent in the world of technology, I believe that teachers will have more freedom to implement strategies for the betterment of students.  I also believe we may slowly see a decrease in teacher workload as students become able to drive their learning forward on their own and learning moves beyond the physical walls of school buildings.  The fact remains that the role of teachers will be to stand firm as a “guide” for the students as they make their way down the learning pathway.  Photo Credit

Through reading Lindi’s blog, I came across the reality of teacher awareness of these web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 monikers and the reality of the fluidity with which technology progresses.  As seen below, many still have little idea what web 2.0 really is.  Sure, as Amy pointed out, those of us that have grown up with these technologies are comfortable giving students the chance to become creators of web content, allow them to create online connections with others around the world and allow students choice in their learning explorations.  However, I think we are being naive if we think this is the way things are done in the majority of classrooms.  I have students in my homeroom that routinely complain of taking notes every hour of science class for days on end.  Are notes inherently evil?  No, but I think as teachers we are drawn to tradition and the ways in which we were taught.  All this to say, I think we still have a long way to go with the proper adoption of Web 2.0 use in the classroom.

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kung-fuSo what does this all mean for my current practice?  I hope that as I continue to develop the use of web 2.0 tools, I will be prepared for what’s to come.  With the rate at which technology is moving, we may not be too far from something akin to the knowledge uploads seen in the Matrix.  Does this mean we as teachers should fear the future or be wary of losing our place in society?  I don’t think so.  Teachers always have been and will continue to be the professionals that drive the new generation.  However, I do believe we must take into account several factors as we seek to be reflective practitioners with respect to Edtech.   Photo Credit

  1. Stay connected and grow your PLN
  2. Let students build their roadmap of learning
  3. Move students from simple search for info to network for info (Instead of searching for ‘what people eat in China?’, try to connect with someone in China and ask them.)
  4. Don’t be afraid to try new tools and become a master of the ones that work well for you.

The future is a place that will look very different for us and for our students.  Let’s be sure that we are giving students tools for success, not simply tech tools for the sake of tech.

“It’s kind of a red herring to introduce this idea that it’s Web 3.0 or some new version of the web that’s driving this innovation,” says O’Reilly Media’s Tim O’Reilly. “I would say it’s more that the web, having disrupted media, is now looking for new targets of disruption and settled on education, which hasn’t had a great deal of disruption of innovation in a long time.”

As I continue to struggle to get my head around this, I would like to pose these questions: Other than access and data management issues, what limiting factors is Web 3.0 facing in regards to education?  Does education need a major disruption?  What’s our role in an educational disruption with regard to Edtech? Let me know in the comments section below.  

The Necessity of Emotion and Humanity in Online Learning

My first experience with any sort of distance education was in the form of home school materials that my Mother purchased before we left for Africa when I was three.  All the curriculums from k-grade 5 were packed into big oil drums, (because apparently that’s how you shipped things back then), and off we went.  So, my first years of education were not ones spent in a classroom filled with students and ABC posters but at my own kitchen table working with my Mom.

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While technically it was not distance learning per se, it was learning at a distance and the basic idea behind it is the same in most cases to what we consider online education.  That goal being the dissemination of information.   My next experience with distance learning came from Athabasca University.  It was a History course that I needed to finish for my degree and it was not offered at the U of R.  I signed up for the class and then a few days later my course materials showed up in the mail.  Two textbooks, and a course syllabus.  I had the phone number and email address of my professor but there were no scheduled synchronous meeting times.  I was expected to read the required materials, write about the topics offered in essay form and send my essays to my prof for evaluation.  I have to admit I felt very alone in my learning and I had to be self-motivated in order to have success.  For some, this system has worked and will work but is it offering the best learning experience for all students?

Online learning is a topic that seems to have polarized views associated with it.  It seems like people either love it or hate it.  But why is that?  Some people are drawn to the ease with which they can access information, interact at their own pace, and explore topics without hindrance.  Others, simply desire the human face-to-face interactions of a classroom and the reassurance that the professor is accessible.  The beauty of distance education is that the access for those that can’t participate in a classroom setting is freeing in so many ways.  Now that technology is offering new pathways for students and teachers in the online education environment, the ease with which content can be offered and accessed is much greater.  This is true in a number of ways.  Firstly, communication between teachers and students is much more efficient.  When distance education first became popular, it was all conducted by mail.  It could potentially take weeks to get feedback on something you had submitted.  As we now know, quick and valuable feedback is a key component of learning.  Secondly, educational technology tools can now offer ways in which teachers can make a very 2D course seem like 3D.  What I mean is that with video, chat, games, and interactivity, the online learning experience can be made to seem much more real.  As Tyson pointed out this week, if done well, online courses such as this one can be extremely engaging and rewarding.

However, it must be understood that we cannot simply be delivering content as we otherwise would in a classroom.  As Erin stated in her blog this week, we have access to tools that could increase online connections and we sometimes fail to take advantage of them.  Why are we still so focused on the idea of content delivery?  Audrey Watters also rightly identifies the drawbacks of simply focusing on content delivery as the be-all and end-all.  In her blog post, she discusses her difficulties with Flipped Classroom style videos such as Kahn Academy.  The truth is, that as nice as it is to be able to pause and replay the instructional material, if the content is not understood, there is no further help available. The web offers us so much more than that.  There are now numerous ways to interact with others online.  Online learning communities can feel very much like home and relationships formed in these communities are often long lasting and fruitful.  The learning experience can be tailored to fit the needs of individuals while still engaging the whole group in meaningful analysis and discussion.  Innovations like synchronous online meeting web apps such as Skype, Zoom or Google Chat allow multiple attendees to interact and share as if they were face to face.  Video, audio, and interactive tools such as GAFE have made collaboration much easier and very engaging as well.

However, can online education ever really replace the ‘humanity’ experienced in classroom settings.  As Launel pointed out this week, the Primary curriculums are very focused on social skills, play based learning and interactions with others.  Would an online learning environment ever be able to truly capture the emotion that is experienced by millions of students everyday as they receive a high 5 or hug from a teacher, share their crayons with a fellow student, or work through a disagreement in their game of tag?  I believe there have been great strides made in this arena as the article below points out.  However, I strongly believe that as humans we have an inherent desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves; a community.  The successes of online education, no matter how interactive the technology will hinge largely on that fact.

As shared by Cara-Jane FeinGold for eLearning Industry, there are ways in which we can create these types of emotional, and humanizing learning experiences.  Things like using storytelling to build empathy in students can be a goof start.  Here are some tips to get started.  Integrating the right tech tools is also a key part of this equation.  It can mean the difference between feeling a part of a learning community or feeling stuck on your own.  Discussion has to flow both ways and students need to feel like they can explore what they want to learn more about.  Picking assignments or projects that foster creativity is a key component. Reaching out and building a community is also a critical step in creating a human learning experience.  Choosing tools that allow for simple communication is a good first step.  Try setting up a Facebook group, HipChat, or, as we’ve done with this course, start a Google Plus community.

Learning is inherently emotional.  As such, it is paramount that our view of online learning incorporate the humanity of learning as much as is possible.  But, can online learning environments ever be as human or emotional as brick and mortar classrooms?  Let me know in the comments section below.

 

Create and Share: 5 Web Tools for Connected/Productive Classrooms

When I think about the ways that educational presentation and productivity tools have changed over the years it’s actually quite staggering.  From the the chalkboard, to the overhead projector, to the SmartBoard, the way in which teachers present information to students is nothing like what it used to be.  Whether it’s what teachers are presenting to students or what students are using to present information to the class, the tools have become efficient, easy to use and affordable.  However, the key word in productivity is Produce.  If students are simply copying information from Google into a powerpoint, we haven’t really allowed students to move beyond collecting information to the synthesis and creation stage.  As classrooms become more and more connected, students should move beyond simply collecting information to give back to their peers and/or teachers.  stock-vector-green-tree-pencil-with-back-to-school-concept-107615228Don’t we want our students to engage online, create new content, curate, moderate, comment and ultimately contribute to their own learning and the learning of others?  Let’s face it, most of us can remember what I like to call the ‘poster days’ during which our classrooms were full to the brim with students’ posters; much to the chagrin of the fire marshals.  However, I am always keeping my eye out for tools that will allow students and teachers alike to move beyond merely conveying information via slide shows to actually synthesizing and creating new content that can be shared online.  That is the whole idea of the connectivist movement.  So here are my top 5 tools to help students become content creators/producers.

  1. Creaza– This site provides both content and web based tools for students to use.  Students have access to quite a robust Audio editor for making radio broadcasts or podcasts.  There is also a myriad of sound effects and music tracks included and the ability to add and edit layers of audio.  In addition, there are pre-made lessons and activities to use along with the audio editing tool.  In the paid version, students also have access to a cartoon builder, a movie editor and a brainstorming/mind-mapping tool.  The best part is, for those of us who are French Immersion teachers, there are multiple language options available as well.  This tool has been extremely useful in my classroom as students have been able to read a piece of literature, or research a specific topic and then create an engaging broadcast piece that can incorporate audio and visual in a well-knit fashion.  The students loved the freedom to add music, voice overs, and their own pictures to create something more than a slideshow.

2. Glogster– This site allows students to make virtual posters which can incorporate pictures, video clips, music, graphics and text to present information.  Students can select from pre-made themes or create their own.  In this way, students can become more than simple relayers of information but creators of content as well.  Students can record their own YouTube videos to embed into the poster or take their own photos or audio recording to go along with their content.  Here is an example of a project done by some students on the subject of Charlemagne.  One of the best features is that the posters are published online and students can then interact with the content, share feedback and comment on their friends’ work.  I have used Glogster in my classroom quite a bit over the years as well.  It affords students the opportunity to mix media to create something that is unique.  Students are much more engaged when they can view videos, pictures, or audio files along with text.  This also means that students do not necessarily have to get up in front of the class to present.  In fact I would argue that a better use of this tool is to use a jigsaw activity in which students would view each Glog and then provide feedback or report back to the class.       glogster-multimedia-posters-online-educational-content

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kizoa_logo_main33. Kizoa– This free web based tool allows the creation of videos, slideshows and animated collages.  Content can be uploaded from the hard drive, or from social media sites like Facebook.  The videos or collages can then be published to Youtube, embedded in a blog, downloaded to the hard drive or emailed to the teacher.I have used this in the past as an alternative to slideshows and the students really enjoyed blending media in order to get a point across.  They also liked the fact that they could use photos from social media that were already there for them to use.  It worked great when doing biography pieces and they really got engaged in the writing process because of this app.

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nouveau-design-madmagz4. MadMagz– As Editor in Chief of your very own magazine, you can invite collaborators to write, edit, and design the pages of your very own magazine.  This site is great for group work assignments or collaboration pieces because students can work together wirelessly from home or school.  Photos can be uploaded from devices or from the web and all changes are saved in real time so multiple collaborators can work on the magazine at the same time.  Because the magazines can be downloaded as pdf, published online or shared, there is a lot of interactivity built into the final product.  Students can then share their magazines via Twitter, Facebook, or embed them in their blog for example.  This allows content to be reviewed by peers as well as creative and constructive feedback to be given.  Lastly, it is usable in French or English, something that is not lost on this French Immersion teacher.  It has been a great tool for both middle years and high school students

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5. VoiceThread- This an app that allows students to create easy to use podcasts using iOS or Android.  It is useable across platforms and software types which means that students always have access to it.  Students can create voice recordings using their devices while also having the ability to sketch on the screen and/or shoot video clips to accompany their spoken word.  Participants can even watch a video and discuss it in real time.  They can see each other’s comments on screen and even draw on the screen.  This type of tool allows students to not only be creators of content but also moderators of meaningful discussion.  As a teacher, these discussions can then be viewed after the fact and analyzed or evaluated.  You could even add your own notes to the group conversation and provide meaningful real-time feedback.

So, to answer the question, yes I think the Internet has made us much more productive.  If by productive we mean that students can create, moderate, curate, comment on, and share content across a vast variety of platforms and applications.  The world is better for it and I believe education is as well.  Let’s help kids turn from simply consuming and regurgitating online content to becoming creators of content and therefore contributors to the online space and to learning itself.