Tech Tools for the Everyday Teacher

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It’s been too long.

I deeply apologize for not posting in such a long time.  My wife and I moved to Korea to teach at an International School this last August.  I am teaching middle school and acting as Tech Coach for the school.  It’s been a blast, but I’ve also been rather busy.  Nonetheless, I am ready to get back to business and blog again!

I am going to start with a fairly simple tool that my students have been using a lot this year.  If you have Ipads available to you, or Macbooks this is right up your alley.  My students have been creating trailers and films using iMovie.

After we completed our novel study on Where the Red Fern Grows, my students were assigned a project to create an iMovie trailer that highlights the key events from the book.  The students absolutely loved it.  I first showed them the trailer options from iMovie.  We talked about each of the genres available.  The students were then allowed to choose which ever genre they wanted for the trailer.  Some students turned Where the Red Fern Grows into horror, others into adventure, and even some into a romance.  Then my 6th graders created paper templates of the templates available for that trailer in iMovie.  They wrote down the phrases they were going to include and where there shots were going to take place.

Then we filmed.

I have now posted all of their films on my class website – because it is easy to upload the films from iMovie to youtube.  On youtube I changed the privacy settings so you have to have the link to see the students’ videos.  They love it!

Here is an example. – the commercial is student made.

This commercial was made using Minecraft.


Online Game Creation

I am always looking for ways for students to create their own online games using class content.  I believe that this is an interactive, educational part of the internet that hasn’t been as polished as other aspects.  That being said – a beginning website for this is: Classtools.net

  • It’s free
  • Students can use it without logging in
  • Easy to input questions and answers
  • Easy to share game with others to play

 

At Classtools.net students have the ability to input information and create a game based on that information.  They then can save their game and require other students to play their game.  At first when you enter the website it looks like a poorly made website because of the confusing design and color choices.  But if you dig further you will find that it does have some hidden treasures.

The main treasure I have explored thus far is the Arcade Game Generator – which is a link on the right side of the home screen.  If you click on the Arcade Game Generator link you will be sent to a Quiz creation wizard.  You can edit the title and create questions and answers here.  The key on this screen is to put your cursor over Example because then you can see exactly how to format your questions and answers.  You can also determine the type of game you want to play with the information – although I like to leave it free choice.


Zooburst

I know that I mentioned this website on my last post – but it’s so good that I had to mention it again.  I have recently been using Zooburst in the classroom and it’s been terrific.  Zooburst is a 3d pop up book creator.  It is free and relatively easy to use. 

I began my lesson having students write poems about our school.  I then introduced them to zooburst.  Zooburst has its own database of pictures that you can search through, or, like many of my students, students can find pictures on google images and upload them to Zooburst. 

Because the “teacher-student” account costs money – I created a teacher account and had all my students login to it.  They can all work on seperate books on the teacher website at the same time.  Unfortunately, there is a maximum of 10 books you can create for an account.  You also need to make sure you have an e-mail address because the password for your account will be e-mailed to you.

The actual 3d pop up book, is awesome.  You can move it and rotate it by clicking with your mouse and dragging.  You can change colors and even add quotation bubbles.

But… the coolest thing about this website is that it has the potential for Augmented Reality.  Augmented Reality is where 3d images are displayed through a webcam.  It’s like virtual reality. 

So I started one of my students poems.  At the top there is an option (if you have the capability) to go to webcam mode.  When you go webcam mode, there is a printout for you to print.  Then – if you display that printout in front of the webcam the book will come to life in your webcam.

It’s awesome!

To review:

  • Zooburst: free
  • 10 books maximum for an account
  • 3d
  • Upload images or search for images
  • Augmented Reality available with web cams

Learning and the Brain

I recently went to a conference called Learning and the Brain in Boston.  There I got to hear numerous incredible speakers including Howard Gardner, Heidi Jacobs, and Dan Willingham.  There were a number of interesting points made about education throughout the lectures – some of which I will be highlighting in future blog posts.

Heidi Jacobs presented some interesting tech tools that I wanted to bring up:

1. Zooburst: If you haven’t visited this website – it’s a must.  It allows for you and your students to create pop-up books.  It is very easy and the capabilities are impressive.  It allows for the creator to time the pop ups and to write their own story.  For the actual pop-up pictures you can upload from the internet.  When you are finished you can print the book or share it.

2. Visual Thesaurus: This website allows for you to type in a word to find words similar to that word.  Something that is unique about this website though is that each time you type in a word you can click on any of the synonymous options and they will bring up a whole new selection of words similar to them.

3. Gap Minder: Have you used gap minder before? It’s rockin.  It’s a graph that presents results from countries all over the world throughout history – and it’s interactive.  Its especially helpful for teaching inference as students can work to create causations.

This was more of a speedy post- I will make sure to go more into depth with future blogs.  Do check out these though!

 


Lego Serious Play

One recent activity that was introduced to me was called lego serious play.  Lego serious play is full of educational activities and tools for education.  Many of the actual concepts involved align with the 21st century skills.  I have linked a short film on Lego Serious Play.  If I get a chance I may start incorporating this in my classroom.


What have I learned recently?

I have been trying to incorporate a lot of technology in my classroom recently.  Like I said in my last post, I constructed the interactive whiteboard that Johnny Lee geniously created.  It works.  That being said I do believe the software he recommends on his website is really the only software that works ‘well’ with this contraption.  Another thing that is important to remember is that the placement of the wiimote is vital – and if it shifts than the whole touch-display is off-put.  I have not done the interactive whiteboard with my students yet because I want to make it a little more fool-proof.

I recently acquired an ipad2 from my district to see its functions in the classroom.  I have been using Doceri – which enables the ipad2 to link to your laptop and then you don’t have to stand up at the front to control your laptop – it also allows for you to write or draw on the ipad2.  It’s actually a very handy program.  I have not had the freedom to use other apps yet – but I’m hoping the district loads some on the ipad2 soon – as its very limited with its capabilities, or I just can’t figure out all its uses. 

That being said, the students have never been more engaged with the lesson? or with the ipad2? than when I pull out that device.  They love it.  It just has a pretty steep learning curve.

There you have it.  I will keep you posted on the interactive whiteboard and try to get some pictures of it in use.

 


Interactive Whiteboards (and cheap ways to make one)

Interactive Whiteboards have become ‘new technology’ in classrooms today.  Some of you may be saying – “we’ve had interactive whiteboards for years.”  Do you believe that you are maximizing your use of those whiteboards?  Others may be asking, “What’s an interactive whiteboard?”

Interactive Whiteboards are just what they’re titled.  They’re ‘often’ special whiteboards (smart boards), or devices that are placed on standard whiteboards (mimios…) that allow for users to touch the whiteboard to operate the computer. 

Positives?

  • Students can come to the board and not have to worry about ink
  • Raises level of student engagement through it’s interactivity
  • Increases student motivation
  • Promotes enthusiasm
  • Supports learning styles

Negatives?

  • Learning Curve
  • Expensive
  • Can become time-consuming
  • New applications can be confusing
  • Technology hazards

So what if you can’t afford to have an interactive whiteboard in your classroom?  Johnny Lee, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon, has created a new way of creating your own interactive whiteboard.  Watch the following film to see how easy it is to set up your own system.

You can easily purchase the wii infrared pen on Amazon.com as well as a bluetooth adapter (if your computer doesn’t already have it) = all of that is less than 30 bucks.  The software for your computer is free on Johnny Lee’s website.

I am currently installing this at school and hope to present pictures and reviews of this being used in the classroom.


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