Saturday, May 21, 2011

Thing 13 - Reflection

Out of all the sites I’ve encountered during the “Thing” classes, I have found that Blogger, Wikispaces, and Voicethread have been my favorite, and the ones that I either use the most already or will be using and implementing into my teaching. Blogger is a great way for me to share my learning and thoughts with other educators, and even parents too. I haven’t used it yet with my students, but would like to next school year and still have to figure out how to get all my students onto Blogger with accounts/passwords. Wikispaces has probably been the most beneficial to me as it allows me to share information on events in my classroom as well as give me a place to set up projects for my students to access and even collaborate on. I can set up student passwords to my classroom wiki making it quite user-friendly and practical. Students are able to add to the wiki or even have discussions under the discussion tabs! I have not used Voicethread yet in my classroom, but will be looking forward to using it with my students as a place to share poetry or other subjects being studying while giving them a place to comment and share thoughts about their classmates’ created works. This site is also practical because I can add users to my account so that they can comment either through audio or texting. I am sure my students will love this online communication and feedback on projects that we pursue in the classroom!

Many of the Web 2.0 applications that I’ve learned about have been shared with colleagues because we have taken the “Thing” classes together. This is great because we can discuss practical uses within our school and classroom! I have shared some applications with students, such as podcasts and podcasting, online videos, and Google Maps as I post to my classroom wiki. Twitter has been a great way for my students to be introduced to a popular social media network as I have set up a classroom Twitter account and have embedded it to my classroom wiki in which we often post whole class comments.

Twitter has also been a great way to create a PLN! Following other tech-savvy educators and experts has been a wonderful way to stay on top of all of the new and innovative technology strategies, tools, and techniques that top educators are using all over the world. Even with this class coming to an end, part of my life-long learning will come from my Twitter PLN, changing me as an educator and how I learn. Twitter has also helped change me by allowing me to share my thoughts and ideas with others as well…something I was only able to really do with the small group of colleagues that I work with everyday. We expect our students to learn and collaborate globally, and I now too have taken that next step to learn from others around the globe.

Learning about Web 2.0 applications and tools to use in my classroom has been an awesome experience and has and will help me to be a better teacher/guide in helping prepare my students for what the future has in store for them!

Thing 13 - Glogster

One free Web 2.0 application that I’ve used is GlogsterEDU. I have used it as a front/home page to my classroom wiki. Students love how it looks and always comment on how “cool” it is. I like how it gives my students a fun visual to navigate around my wiki.

Glogster is an application that allows users to create interactive posters that can be embedded onto a website, wiki, or blog. Students can use the tool to create projects related to subjects being studied in class. There are many backgrounds, images, and effects that can be used to design the poster. Documents, original pics/photos, videos, and links to other websites can also be linked to the poster. It is a great way to keep audio/visual learners interested in topics being studied!

Check it out at GlogsterEDU!

Thing 12 - Mobile Learning

The use of mobile learning devices (cell phones) in the classroom is an interesting concept. I believe that with most schools having a strict policy restricting these devices, it could be difficult for teachers to implement the tool as a requirement. There may be ways to allow students who do own cell phones to use them outside the classroom such as using the Google Voice app to text or call the teacher to ask a question or to obtain homework help or assignments. I can also see the QR codes being a fun way to pique the interest of some students who may have access to a cell phone outside of school. The QR codes could be created and posted to a website or wiki that parents and students could use to access homework answers or information promoting school events or units of study.

I teach in a middle school setting in which most of my students do not have cell phones (a disadvantage). I can definitely see cell phones being more applicable for classroom/learning use at the high school level in which cell phones could be used as a research tool within the classroom. Not all schools can implement the 1:1 laptop/iPad initiative into their schools just yet, but most high school students have their own cell phones which would put a research tool readily available into their hands. I do believe that they could be a distraction for some students, and that it could be difficult for teachers to be sure students are using them for the task at hand. Another disadvantage to these mobile learning devices (including tablets, iPads, and cell phones) is that they are not really productivity tools. Not yet, anyway. The laptop still offers students the ability to create and produce assignments/projects that other “new” mobile learning devices are still not capable of at this time. Someday I would love to implement these mobile learning devices into my curriculum, but for now I will wait until all the kinks of these fairly new devices are all worked out. I am, however, confident that these tools will be more common in schools in the near future!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thing 11 - Text-to-Speech/Speech-to-Text

Read the Words
A Bear in There by Shel Silverstein

MRA Conference Implementation PDF Document
MRA Conference Implementation

The first thing that came to mind as I explored the text-to-speech sites was how I could be using it right now in my classroom. Because I teach students how to write and how to go through the editing process, I often find that some students have difficulty in editing their writing because they just don't "see" the errors on the page. If my students were able to copy and paste their writing into one of the text-to-speech sites, they might be able to "hear" the mistakes and be able to make corrections as needed.

I really liked the vozMe site because it seemed the easiest for students to be able to use. Although the quality of the audio was okay, I could enter a small amount of text or copy and paste a large amount of text. Students would not need to set up accounts for this particular site either...a plus, in my opinion.

Read the Words was also quite easy but needed an account. I also could not upload a larger document without having to pay for an upgrade.

YAKiToMe, on the other hand allowed me to upload a larger piece of text. The quality of the audio was also pretty good. I preferred the YAKiToMe site over the others because of the the amount of text it could handle and the quality of the audio.

Dial2Do seemed like a pretty neat Speech-to-Text site. I thought the accuracy of the transcription was great. Although, it is limited in the amount of services unless a subscription is paid for.

Awesome UDL tools for giving students different ways to learn and be successful in the classroom!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thing 10 - Google Maps

Mackinac Bridge Area Attractions
View Mackinac Bridge Area Attractions in a larger map

Mackinac Bridge Street View

View Mackinac Bridge Area Attractions in a larger map

After exploring Google Maps and especially My Maps, I can see that educators could use this application in the classroom in many areas. As I teach English and reading at my school, I could have students search for places we are reading about, or I could create maps with video, links, and text to have students explore (virtual field trips). When studying folktales/mythology with 7th grade students, I could have them go to the places/areas that stories being studied took place or may have taken place...Greek Mythology - Greece for example. When studying Shakespeare a class could "visit" Shakespeare's Globe Theater. Google Maps could be used for math and geography when finding locations and distance. In social studies/history, teachers can take students to areas of the world when discussing current events. The possibilities are endless! Great Web 2.0 Tool!

Thing 9 - Google Custom Search Engine

Holocaust Search Engine

This customized search engine allows students to research topics and images for a unit of study on the Holocaust. I found my experience with setting up the Google Custom Search to be very easy. I really like the idea of creating a search engine for individual units of study such as the Holocaust because I know that my students will be going to sites that are appropriate and that allow them to get to the information they need without having to weed through what they don't want or need. After experimenting with the ease of this Google application, I will be creating a customized search engine to put on my classroom wiki for any topic to be researched. My students are always looking for websites that they can take images from. A list of fair use/copyright friendly websites of images that are kid-friendly will be my first goal with setting up this search engine. What a great way to help ensure the safety of our students while online!

Thing 8 - Screencast

Screencasting using Screencast-o-matic was actually pretty neat and pretty easy to use too. I had no issues with the website, software, or audio.

I can definitely see how teachers and students could use screencasting. The information I read about and the examples of Mathcasts that I looked at show how this tool would be extremely useful to a math teacher. Being able to show students how to solve math problems and also being able to have students show how they solve math problems in this format, which can be embedded onto a classroom website or wiki, allows for students and even parents to understand concepts learned at school. All too often, parents try to help their child with a math assignment at home, and they show their child a "different" way to do the work. Students get confused and frustrations arise. With an explanation of how to do the math concept readily available, this situation can be helped.

I really like the idea of students explaining something learned. I often have students help each other in the classroom because it allows them to learn from each other. Sometimes they learn better from each other than from only hearing and watching me teach them. Screencasting allows students to explain their way of doing something which in turn can help someone else understand.

As the fifth grade technology teacher at my school, I can see how creating screencasts on how to use applications and software can be useful. After students first listen and follow along to my instruction, if they need to be reminded of a step they may have forgotten, the screencast would be available for them to use. This helps me, and it also helps my students!

I believe screencasting could be used in any subject. Besides math and technology instruction, it would lend itself well to history or geography. Students could show movement of people throughout history with maps, images, and links done in a Powerpoint. Science screencasts could also be created in Powerpoint with images and diagrams to show a subject being learned.

Now that I've created my first screencast, I am sure to use it in my classroom instruction!