Archive for the ‘Digital Learning’ Category

According to Wikipedia, as of February 16, 2014, Tumbler had around 172 million registered blogs, and WordPress had 75.8 million blogs in existence worldwide. These are only two of many blogging platforms available around the world, so you we can only imagine the true number of blogs being published on the Internet each day.  A blog, short for web log, is basically a website updated periodically by the author that shares information, a person’s interests, or…well, anything really.  Updates to the blog are called posts, and they’re arranged on the site in reverse chronological order.  Blogs are powerful tools because they allow for discussion and collaboration through commenting features.  Most blogging platforms will also allow you to add collaborators in order to create a shared knowledge base.

bloggingAs many teachers are discovering around the world, blogging is not just for people looking to share what they know, it’s also a great tool for motivating students to write and for enhancing a student’s writing abilities.  According to Alison Sawmiller, author of the 2010 article “Classroom Blogging: What is the Role in Science Learning?”, blogging has many benefits for students including giving the “silent student” a voice by providing a medium where they are not interrupted or talked over, encouraging critical thinking by requiring students to actively think about and reflect on what they’re learning in class, and allowing for differentiation of writing assignments.

As with any implementation of technology, the focus should be on sound pedagogical practices, not the technology itself, and this is true for blogging as well.  Our students already know how to use the technology tools, they’re just not familiar with how it can change their learning and their understanding.  That’s where we, as teachers, come in.  “Well, what, Lauren, can I get my students to accomplish through blogging?”  I’m so glad you asked!

The first thing we need to do is to make our learning activities and writing prompts are authentic and meaningful.  If our students can’t connect what they’re learning and doing to their real life, we’ve already lost them.  Allowing our students to become invested in what they’re writing by providing them with an opportunity to share what’s meaningful to them, we’re creating in them an interest and motivation to do more and learn more.  Next, we need to give them a real-world audience…other than you, Mom, and Dad.  Publishing a blog to the Internet does that!  Share your students’ blogs with colleagues at other schools.  Get them to share the blogs with colleagues in other states and countries even.  Encourage those readers to comment by posting feedback and asking probing questions.  As soon as your students know that they’re writing to a broader audience, they’ll begin to pay more attention to spelling and grammar.  You’ll also begin to witness them experiment with developing their own voice as an author.  Eventually, through consistent and structured blogging, you’ll notice a shift from self-centered writing to audience-centered writing.  They’ll remember a comment and tie it in to a new post, or let a conversation spark an idea for a new topic.  Everyday experiences now become spring boards for new posts, your students actually become excited about writing, and you’ll see their abilities begin to bloom.  Encourage your students to take risks, explore using humor, and share their own opinions, not just the facts that they’re learning.

What are some ways to get your feet wet without diving into the deep end of blogging?  Start by creating a class blog rather than having all of your students blog individually.  Post questions about a book you all are reading, an experiment you’re conducting, or where students are using the math they’re learning in the classroom in the real world.  Have your students blog by commenting on your questions and responding to other students’ comments.  Just get the conversation started!

reciprocal_teaching

Reciprocal teaching is a great instructional strategy to use with blogging!  Mainly used as a guided reading strategy in elementary school, students follow a series of activities before, during, and after reading.  A different student is responsible for each step in the series.  The activities are 1.)  Questioning, 2.)  Clarifying, 3.)  Summarizing, and 4.)  Predicting.  Why not designate students to blog specifically about one of the processes above.  It doesn’t even have to be about a book you’re reading.  You could use the four steps of Reciprocal Teaching with any subject area!  That gives your students a leadership role in the classroom by making them responsible for consulting the class before making their post.  Also, classmates will be responding to their (the student’s) posts, not just the teacher’s, which will also give them a sense of importance and purpose.

My point in writing this post (other than the fact it’s a grad school assignment 🙂 ) is to get you to think about blogging as something other than just students jotting down their thoughts of the day.  Get them involved in research, give them a specific purpose, and give them an authentic audience.  If you’re strategically planning your blogging activities/projects, students will be able to learn about giving credit to other people’s work through citations and linking, they will be able to develop their own voice as an author, they’ll begin to understand what it means to write for a broader audience, and they’ll hopefully begin to understand the power of communicating to a global audience.  When blogging, students are utilizing skills such as critical thinking, questioning, working with others, providing constructive feedback through commenting, and (hopefully) proofreading.  So give it a try.  Below I’ve linked to some easy-to-use blogging tools that will help you get started.  Please consider leaving a comment below if you’re already blogging with your students, if you use a different tool than one listed below, or if you have any questions about how to get started!

Blogger.com

Weebly.com

KidBlog.org

Since last January (2013), I’ve been working on an add-on for my teaching license that will qualify me for my current position as an Instructional Technology Specialist/Facilitator.  This spring I had one assignment in my current class that gave me quite a bit of trouble.  In fact, I made the lowest grade I’ve ever made on that assignment…I mean EVER! It’s all good though, I still have an A. 🙂  Anywho, the assignment was on the use of spreadsheets in the classroom.

In the past, I’ve used spreadsheets to create basic gradebooks, budgets, and lesson plan templates, but I’ve never really thought about using them with the students.  I’m the kind of person that I’m not not going to know something for long, so when I recovered from the shock of my grade, I became determined to learn more about spreadsheets in the classroom.  Holy cow, have I been missing out!

Tammy Worcester Tang is using Google Spreadsheets in some really incredible ways.  You definitely have to check out the Google Stuff page on her website.  A couple of her awesomely creative ideas include:

    • coloring lines and resizing rows and columns to create index cards, notebook pages, and journals.  Since a spreadsheet can have multiple tabs, those are great ways of creating study aids and digital notebooks for your students. Here’s an image of an index card I created. spreadsheet_indexcard
    • use “if/then” statements to create “Guess and Check” activities for your students.  Hide the actual answer in cell A1 and set the background color to the text color.  The correct formula for an “if/then” statement is: =IF(what you’re testing, “true value”, “false value”).  In the example below, I asked the question “How old is Mrs. Boucher?”  I had three formulas that I used: =IF(C6>A1, “Too High”, ” “), =If(C6=A1, “Correct!”, ” “), and =IF(C6<A1, “Too Low”, ” “).

Some other ideas that I’ve found through my research are:

  • Creating math review for basic facts or finding the average of a set of data using a spreadsheet.  Print them out and have your students complete them.  Show students how to use the basic formulas for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and average.  Have a computer station set up where students can input the formulas and check their answers.  By putting in the formulas, they’re cementing their procedural knowledge.
  • Have students collect data on the latest tablets or other desirable electronic devices.  Record the prices for each and have them use the MIN and MAX formulas to identify which one costs the most/least.
  • Have students research different summer jobs that are available in your area.  Input the data and use the MIN and MAX formulas to determine which are the best jobs.  You could go a step further and use charts to compare pay per hour for the jobs to see which jobs offer the most money for the least amount of hours.
  • Have students create databases using spreadsheets, then teach them to sort and filter to find the information that they need.

I always stayed away from spreadsheets in the classroom because I really didn’t understand how they worked.  As I continue to research and find more classroom activities that even the youngest students can do, I’m getting more excited about them.  Have you creatively used Spreadsheets with your students?  If so, how?  Please share your ideas and experiences in the comments below.

Over the past month, I’ve been writing about the issues and resources surrounding copyright in the digital classroom.  I’ve covered Fair Use, Public Domain, Creative Commons, and now we’re going to look at specific solutions to ensure copyright compliance in the digital classroom.  Below are my recommendations for creating a copyright friendly environment in your digital classroom.

Protect Yourself!google_sites_icon

Class websites can be an amazing tool for delivering content, fostering collaboration, and sharing information with parents and students.  However, many teachers (and students) will sometimes use images and content that they don’t have the right to use.  Remember that Fair Use only covers face to face instruction, so if you’re using your website to deliver instruction, you cannot claim Fair Use.  Here are my suggestions for protecting yourself with your awesome class website:

  • Password protect your website.  By password protecting your website, only your students will have access to your instruction.  I recommend using Google Sites to build your class website because you can use page level permissions to only password protect certain pages.  This will allow you to have a parent information page that is public.  Even password protected content can still be used illegally though.  An extra precaution you can take is to convert copyrighted documents to pdf files and then disable saving and printing.
  • Use Google’s Search Tools option to find images that are licensed for reuse.  When you do a Google Image search, right below the search bar, at the end of the advanced search options, it says “Search Tools”.  The fifth option is “Usage Rights”.  Choose the licensing option that fits your needs.
  • Ask permission.  In the world of email, Twitter, Facebook, and personal websites, finding people is easier than ever.  Do your due diligence to find the authors/creators of the content you wish to use on your site.
  • Link rather than embed.  I have to admit that I’m an embedder.  I’d rather have everything right on the page in one place.  However, if you haven’t obtained permission, you could be infringing on someone’s copyright.  If you link to the original source of the content, you’re safe.  Additionally, if you’re using audio or video content, make sure that it is streaming rather than downloadable.
  • Site all works that aren’t yours!  We all learned how to cite our sources in high school, and definitely in college.  Break out those rusty skills and make sure that you’re at least making an effort to give credit where credit is due.
  • Utilize Creative Commons resources.  There are a ton of great works available that people have licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons.  Flickr and CreativeCommons.org are two great places to start.

Assigning students multimedia projects, or better yet, giving them the a menu of project choices is a great way to increase engagement and motivation in your classroom.  However, sometimes students don’t take copyright into consideration when they’re choosing images and content to use in those projects.  Using the suggestions above will make them more aware of the content that they’re using.  My final suggestion for you will not only increase the relevance of what your students are doing, but the rigor as well.

SoundCloud, YouTube, and Flickr

Either set up an account with a generic username and password for your class, or have students set up their own accounts for the sites above.  SoundCloud is for sound clip storage, YouTube for video storage, and Flickr is for photographs.  Have your students create their own images, sound clips, and videos to use in their presentations and projects.  I think it would be neat to have them set up their own accounts and license their work with the CreativeCommons licensing tool.  Have them get permission from each other before using a classmate’s content in their presentations.  Doing this will allow you and your students to build a database of content to pull from when needed for websites, presentations, and multimedia projects, and will get students in the habit of seeking resources that are copyright-friendly.

tellagami Tellagami (free)

Everyone has a story to tell, and with this app, stories are called “gamis”.  That’s why the app is called Tellagami…you create an avatar, and then tell your gami.  Get it?! 🙂  I LOVE this app for its simplicity.  Users create an avatar by choosing the gender, skin color, eye color, hair color, clothes, and facial expressions.  There are default backgrounds, or you can upload your own.  Users can then place their avatar anywhere on the screen, then just hit record.  You can either type what you want the avatar to say, or you can record your voice.  Each gami can last up to 30 seconds, but if you want a longer story, you can use YouTube’s video editing tools to put them together into one video (check back next week on Thursday for a post about YouTube editing tools).  Here’s a gami I created advertising a local Tech Express session.

1_click_timer1-Click Timer

This Chrome Extension is super easy to use and perfect for the classroom.  When you click on the icon in your tool bar beside the omnibox (formerly known as the address bar), the timer will appear.  Simply click the time that you want it to begin counting down from, and it will starts automatically.  When you click outside the timer, it disappears, but you’ll still have a small countdown on your toolbar.  What I really like about this extension is that when time is up, you don’t get this annoying buzzer that scares the crap out of everyone.  A nice acoustic guitar riff plays alerting you and your students that time is up.

1-click_timer_2

icon-blendspaceBlendspace

This Chrome app was formerly known as Edcanvas.  I’ve just discovered this one, and I’ve already begun sharing it with teachers in my district.  Blendspace allows you to organize all of your links and documents onto a “canvas” or “space” so that your students can have instant access to all lesson documents in one place.  This app really appeals to me because my district is a Google Apps for Education district, and you can also bring in documents from your Google Drive.  In fact, you can sign in automatically with your Google account.  I recently used this tool during a training on Rigor and Relevance by curating various news headlines.  Teachers were able to click on the headlines that appealed to them, as well as see all the resources available at a glance.  Here’s my Blendspace I used for that training:  http://blnds.co/1gFaYQK.

Please let us know how you’re planning to use these tools, or your experiences with them in the comments section below.  If you have any tools you’d like to see featured on TechToolThursdays, feel free to suggest them below.

creative_commons

Even on a good day, copyright is hard to understand.  There are so many rules and percentages of use to remember that even while trying to be compliant, we may make mistakes.  The availability of resources online makes that even more difficult sometimes because we think, “well if someone put it on the Internet, it must be okay to use it”.  Unfortunately, that’s just not the case.  In fact, I received a message from Pinterest letting me know that they had removed one of my pins.  It was just something that I repinned, so I wasn’t responsible, per say, but it was still removed because the copyright holder complained.  As teachers and users of online content, we’ve got to be more aware, and teach our students to be more aware, of what is right and what is wrong when it comes to using online resources.

Fortunately, Creative Commons was founded in 2001 as a way for people to license their work for certain uses or to dedicate works to the public domain for free.  Since 2001, they have worked to bring scientific research to the public with their licenses, as well as to minimize barriers for educators and students to share and reuse educational materials.  According the their website, “Creative Commons licenses, public domain tools, and supporting technologies have become the global standard for sharing across culture, education, government, science, and more.”  Thank you, Creative Commons!

So what are the Creative Commons licenses?  According to a very helpful infographic by Foter, here are the available licenses and how they’re used:

creativecommons

How To Attribute Creative Commons Photos by Foter

So basically, finding resources that have been licensed under CreativeCommons ensures that you’re using materials with permission.  I also love the fact that you and your students can license your own work for free!  If you’ve never explored the Commons, I highly suggest you check out CreativeCommons.org.  From the website, you can read about special projects they’re currently involved in, explore their Public Domain resources, and find materials that have been licensed under Creative Commons.  My challenge to you is to start creating and get your students creating, then license those creations.  Use your materials and their materials in your lessons, presentations, and projects to ensure that you are copyright compliant.

What are my favorite CreativeCommons tools?

Flickr for photos

YouTube for videos

Sound Cloud for music

Do you have “go to” Creative Commons sites?  Please share them in the comments below.  Want to learn more about copyright in the digital classroom?  Check out my other posts in this series:

Copyright in the Digital Classroom

Fair Use

Public Domain

Copyright, Class Websites, and Student Projects

Clustr Map
Google+