Friday, January 27, 2012

Mind42


Mind42 (Mind For Two) is a website for creating mind maps and also provides the ability to work on them collaboratively for free.  You can attach notes to the mind maps as well.  You can also include images and links to outside websites as well.  There is also a section where you can browse published mind maps and see what other people have done, how they have done them to "steal" ideas, and then possibly find one that you can use.  If looking to complete mind maps or graphic organizers, Mind42 seems like a reasonable option.  I wish I would have thought about this site when doing something related to How a Bill Becomes a Law.


Spaaze


Spaaze is a virtual cork-board that allows you to easily collect, organize, and share information on an infinite space.  The site reminds me of Wallwisher in many ways, but it is different because it is not completely free.  You get up to 99 "points" for a free account and the points are deducted based on what you do with your cork-board.  For example, creating multiple boards and uploading files will take away some of your free points and you can pay for more points.  It is just $1.49 for 100 points in case you decide this is a site you want to use.  There is also a subscription that is $3.00 a month.  All items on a cork-board are free, so you don't lose points that way.  So 99 is actually a lot of "Spaaze Points."  You can learn more about the pricing HERE.

On the main page, you can see various demos that take you to an interactive version of various cork-boards that would be worth looking at.  Here is a short informational video that someone created below.  Spaaze also works on the iPad and there is a video that shares how that works as well.



Kicksend


Kicksend is a website for easily managing, sending, and receiving large files and groups of files.  The service will download and organize your files for easy usage.  There is no requirement to sign up to receive files.  Desktop applications allow you to easily send large batches of files.  There is also an iPhone app as well which lets you send photos and videos to any of your contacts.  A great additional feature is the ability to chat about the files you are sending in real time with other users.  Give it a try if this is something that you find yourself needing to use.

SimpleMeet.me


SimpleMeet.me is a simple online back channel web software that allows users to easily communicate on the web.  Every visitor is provided a code to share with people they want to chat with.  If someone has given you a code, you just type it in and access the chat area.  It is very similar to other back channel services out there.  Users can type in their name and if necessary a file can be uploaded to share with others involved in the chat.  If required you can have a log of the chat emailed as well.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Museum of Obsolete Objects


A Video Channel on YouTube is the Museum of Obsolete Objects which provides videos of objects we no longer use or that have become extremely out of date, like cassette tapes, and simple calculators.  You will also find objects that are not obsolete, but that have been improved but still might be used, like a light bulb or Morse Code.  In the "museum" you simply choose an object and it will show a video of it.  It is kind of funny to see all these old and "great" technologies that we are no longer using.

At the same time, you can also submit your own videos.  This would be a great project idea for technology education courses or even several practical living classrooms. 

A sample video is shown below.

uWhisp

Something a little different.  For those of you that keep a Facebook page for your classroom or a Twitter feed, uWhisp is a site currently in Beta that allows you to record audio of yourself that can then be played back within the web browser.  It currently requires Google Chrome for plug-in that needs to be installed in your browser.  The plug-in also places a button in the text boxes of the social networks that you use.

uWhisp is really new that some of the links on the main page are not up and running yet, but I wanted to share what could be a look into the future of how we use Social Media to actually be vocally social.

You can watch the short video below to see how it works.

ScholarPRO

Let's face it.; graduation is just around the corner for hundreds of thousands of Seniors and the cost of going to college is not getting cheaper (In fact, my graduate courses have gone from $500 in 2001, to $1350 in 2011).  ScholarPRO is a website that touts itself as a better way to find and apply for scholarships. 

First thing users do is fill out an informational sheet where students tell a little about themselves.  Once the website has that information, they will review potential scholarships that match the information you provided.  Students will then be able to apply for the scholarships online.  ScholarPRO will manage your essays, recommendations, and transcripts, which makes applying to multiple scholarships very easy.

With all the information that students will be providing it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that students take a look at the Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.  You can learn more about their website and services HERE.  You can also read more about the website at TechCrunch

ThinkBinder


ThinkBinder is a web service that allows users, or more specifically students, to create a Study Group online. With the services, students can Discuss topics related to what they are studying.  Students can also share videos, links, and other artifacts that would be useful to what they are studying.  There is also a chat feature that has both text and video as a option.  ThinkBinder also includes a collaborative Whiteboard to work on problems together.  If you have files that go along with what you are studying, you can easily organize them in the cloud.

When you create your study group (For Free) you will be given a group code that you can provide to friends and members of your study group.  This is how the group gets created.  With all web based services, it would be a good idea to check out the Terms and Privacy Policy of ThinkBinder as well.  Below is a short introduction video about the service that showcases some of the features. 



Meet ThinkBinder from ThinkBinder on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

SoapBox

No, I am not getting on mine, but this new web/computer/mobile based tool/software could allow you and your students too.  Currently in Beta for testing and allowing you to email to join, Soapbox looks to be the "do it all" back channel application for teachers.


You or students can create socially ranked questions where students can determine importance and that get updated in real time.  Students can also participate in polls and respond to questions through a clicker type system.  At the same time, students can mark whether they understand or are confused about something and the software updates real time. There is also an area for discussions where teachers can create topics and the can be discussed.  Responses are anonymous, so there would have to be a level of trust and understanding between you and your students.  Soapbox is not just an application for class time use.  It can be accessed 24/7 therefore making it a lot more than just a back channel system.

From its website; SoapBox is a controlled digital space, designed to improve student engagement by breaking down the barriers students face when deciding whether or not to participate in class, and gives teachers a concrete assessment of student comprehension, in real time.

For more information, see the video below.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Just What Does it Mean to Integrate Technology - Part II

In a recent post I asked the question: "Just What Does it Mean to Integrate Technology?"  I have often wondered what that meant, especially since returning to the classroom.  I remember when I first started teaching (JUST 9 years ago by the way) integrating technology meant anything that you plugged in was using technology, and none of the integration focused on student use of the technology and the idea of "Digital Natives" was a term not even in our vocabulary yet.

In 2012 more emphasis is being placed on student use of technology.  I currently have a student teacher and she had ZERO classes that focused on technology in the classroom, at least from a Web 2.0 sense.  There were classes that mentioned and showcased hardware, but not ALL schools have the hardware, but do provide access to the FREE software available on the web.  I mentioned to my student teacher TinyURL, and she had never heard of it.  It really got me thinking what else she had not heard of.  It also got me thinking that if technology integration is going to be vital to teacher evaluations and student success, why are more universities not offering/requiring classes in the teacher education program?  If student use of technology is going to be something focused on, future teachers need to know about a lot of it first, or AT LEAST be introduced to where they can learn and find out about the great tools out there.  Twitter is a great starting point by the way!

Student use of technology also brings up an interesting aspect as well.  Just what will we consider student use.  As I mentioned in the previous post, several school districts consider just placing an assignment under a document camera and showing it to the class as "student use."  Most of us with integration specialist experience know and will agree that is hardly "integrating" technology.  But in 2012, is creating a simple Power Point student use of technology anymore?

Most students still use Power Point in schools because most teachers know how to use it.  Since teacher education programs are not focusing on the new options, neither will the students because they won't be introduced to it, or because the teacher does not know about it, and therefore does not want the student using it. If students are still going to be using Power Point, then we should go beyond simple creation and require students to add music, add voice over and timing, video integration, etc.

When you think about student use of technology, we should be encouraging video and audio editing in projects.  Students should record multiple aspects of a project and then work on editing them together.  Students should be creating cartoons and comics and piecing stories together.  Students should be taking the airliner in their hands and running presentations and drawing over worksheets and highlighting text.  Students should be collaborating over the web and using tools to communicate with each other and the teacher about assignments.

Technology Integration is no longer just about the tools we plug in.  It is about the tools in the cloud that are always plugged in and available for student use.  So just what does it mean to have students use technology?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mock Congress

Let me start off by saying that this is a non-technology related post. This past week our government classes were starting their unit on the Legislative Branch. In years past I focused on comparing the two Houses and doing flow charts for How a Bill Becomes a Law. This year with the help of my fellow government teacher our freshman classes conducted a Mock Congress or a simulation of How a Bill Becomes a Law. I wanted to take a moment to share the experience with any fellow social studies teachers out there.


The first step for us was to have students create a bill that they think should become a law. Students came up with some really good laws and controversial ones as well. We had Bills related to immigration, abortion, same sex marriage, driving laws, education, etc. It was great seeing the students take something they had an opinion about and run with it.


The process for the simulation was to first split students up into political party's based on a political spectrum assignment that we did earlier. This allowed students to elect a Speaker of the House, Party Leaders, and Party Whips. We then had the Party Leaders assign students to 6 designated committees based on the Bills that the students wrote. While this was going on, the Speaker of the House looked at the Bills and decided which ones to pass on to committees and which ones to ignore.


In committees, Chairpersons were appointed by the Speaker of the House and then looked through the Bills. They had three options. Pigeonhole it which means not discuss it, send it back to Bill sponsor for changes, or discuss and decide whether to pass it on to the floor for a vote, or defeat it.


Once the Bills left the committee, the Speaker of the House will put them in the order that they will be discussed on the floor. As Bills were discussed on the floor and debated, the Speaker of the House would call on people in the order they see fit. For voting purposes, they could have a vocal vote, a standing vote, and roll call. We made sure to use all the different kinds. If Bills passed, they were sent to the President (myself and the other teacher). We would either sign off on the Bill or veto it. In every class we vetoed a Bill to allow students the opportunity to see that process and see if they could still pass the bill with a 2/3 vote. Every veto was never overturned.


After the experience was over students were still talking about it. We concluded the simulation by having students complete an On-Demand Writing assignment where they picked a Bill that passed or didn't pass and write a Senator or Representative from our state describing why they should consider the Bill or not consider one that did not pass. I also included the process for How a Bill Becomes a Law as an essay on the summative assessment.


Want to know more? Just comment and get in touch with me on Twitter. I plan on uploading all the documents we used to my school website in the future and linking the story from our district website when it is published. I also will get a picture from our local newspaper who I contacted about doing a story on the project.

It was a very rigorous and relevant assignment for our students and something we will do in the future.



Sunday, January 8, 2012

Just What Does it Mean to Integrate Technology

Here we are in 2012 and technology is a booming industry in education. SMARTBoards, Projectors, Document Cameras, Airliners, Clicker Systems, Video and Photo devices, iPods and iPads are invading classrooms all over the world. Teachers and students are being asked to use these new tools, with some having training and others being thrown to the wolves. But just what does it mean to integrate technology?

Does using a projector each day count as a teacher using technology? The pressure is on for teachers to focus on "student use of technology." But what does that mean? If a student places an assignment under the document camera to show to the class, is that student "using" the technology? Does holding a clicker remote really count for student use?

I use technology everyday, but getting my students to use it has been a struggle. I provide ways for students to communicate using technology, whether it is social media or text messages. I assign the occasional assignment requiring searching the web for information and teaching the students how to search properly. I use the occasional web 2.0 tool and encourage students to use it as well for projects. I am quickly discovering that using class time to work on a project in a computer lab is not the best use of class time. But because of technology limitations for many of my students, I have no other choice, which makes assigning projects using technology frustrating.

With teacher accountability changing all the time, where will technology integration fit into the equation? How will they measure a teachers ability to use technology and student use of technology? Then the big question, will it be measured at all? One would hope so considering how much money states and districts are spending on tools and personnel.

I firmly believe that if I was at a 1:1 school I would have much more success with integration. At the same time I know several teachers out there would struggle with a 1:1 program.

So the big question still remains....Just what does it mean to integrate technology? What are your thoughts?
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