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. Don’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.
- 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.
3. 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.
4. 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
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.