Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Games, Games and More Games

Over the past few years, we've seen games offered on websites improve.  Not only are they interactive by nature but they've also improved the way feedback is supplied to the learner.  Sheppard Software has developed a number of good games for most ages and for many parts of the curriculum.  These play especially well on a SMARTBoard (or other IWB).  Check 'em out!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Simple Changes...Paper or Digital?

Which do you use more - paper or digital tools?  Seth Godin has an interesting point on his blog today about paper and the publishing industry.  Our ability to access and use digital tools for publishing is changing and improving every day.  Just take a look at this Flipboard app for the new Apple iPad.  You can build your own magazine of the resources you want to have access to.  I can imagine a really clever teacher using that app to create a class magazine of resources that students go to and discuss with each other.

We use a LOT of paper in schools. Why?  We send notes home to parents about field trips, open houses, school rules...and each and every one of these can be presented just as easily through digital means.  How? Blogs are super easy to create - with one web address you can give parents access to all the information they need about what's going on in the classroom and you also have a tool to build writing skills and digital citizenship with your students.  Just one simple change such as this could mean saving reams of paper every year.  Kidblog is a really great tool to use - easy to set up, has teacher controls that help you to monitor what's being published and their support is excellent.

Worksheets? Forget it...too much paper!  Investigate Daily Five, CAFE, and individual websites as tools for students to practice skills instead. None of these require paper - they just require the time to set up daily routines with students.  Take advantage of the expertise of other teachers in your building - they've probably got a wealth of bookmarked educational websites that they'd love to share with you.  Better yet...start taking that wealth of information and publish it digitally so everyone has access to it anytime they need it.

It doesn't take much to save a lot of paper and increase communication not only between home and school but within your building staff as well.

Change the Media

Take a look at this 7 min. video excerpt from a recent conference where Alan November presented a session.  It starts midway through his presentation apparently but be patient and listen for a few minutes to get a sense of his ideas.

Essentially what he's talking about is putting kids in charge of producing videos that demonstrate the learning going on in classrooms - everything from progress as readers to introducing parents to the classroom at a back to school night.

Now, before you click away thinking that kids can't do this and you don't have time, listen to the video if you haven't already and think about what Alan is suggesting.  He's suggesting a small change that can be made that will invite parents into the learning, a small change that could have a large impact on student achievement.  A Flip camera is extremely easy to use and yes...even a kindergarten student can use it.  It's easy to take the video from the camera and edit it using MovieMaker or iMovie or any other video editing tool of choice.

Think about the possibilities for producing videos - it doesn't have to be something that you spend a lot of time planning and working on.  It can be just every day activities - reading with someone, talking about a writing piece, explaining a science experiment, even recording a lesson that students will be doing follow up work with.  What ideas do you have?

Smartboard teachers - you already have the ability to capture work that students are doing at the Smartboard.  Attaching a microphone/headset to the USB port on one of your speakers gives anyone the ability to record and narrate what's going on with the learning.  What possibilities can you see in being able to do this?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Survey Tools

Using survey tools in your classroom will allow you to gather data quickly.  What kinds of data might you gather?  Eye color, favorite colors, kinds of pets, number of people in the family, etc.  There are many tools available online that allow you to create any sort of survey you'd like.

Here's a really easy one called Answer Garden.  You simply type in a question you'd like people to answer then either give them a URL to go to or you can embed your survey in a webpage such as the one you see below (my answer is already here).  You'll see the results of the survey in the form of a word cloud - please add your answer so we can all see what this will look like with several answers entered.  What ideas do you have for using this tool or the results of a survey such as this one?

What's your favorite tool in the Smart Notebook software?... at AnswerGarden.ch.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How Will You Make the Best Use of Technology?

IWB's (interactive whiteboards) are the topic of lots of conversation in the education community and beyond.  As with any technology, it takes good knowledge of your content and solid pedagogical practices to really make the most of the tool.

IWB's Are No Silver Bullet is a great blog post written by Chris Betcher, an educator in Australia.  Be sure to read through the comments as well to see how others have responded to his thoughts.

Using the Smart Notebook Software to Archive Student Learning

Put this one under "wish I had thought of that."  Saw this idea on Twitter this afternoon and it's brilliant!

When you create a SMART Notebook for instruction, you're generally thinking about the content you'd like to present to your students.  But, what about considering saving the work that students have done in that notebook so their learning is archived online perhaps in a blog or in Voicethread where you can continue to promote your students' thinking, conversation, and collaboration?

This grade 1 student created a picture with text in a SMART notebook.  Instead of just saving it where it likely would live only on a computer, the work was exported as a .jpeg so that it could then be uploaded to the blog page.  Now it lives on the web where it can be shared with the world and where others can give this student feedback about her work.  Brilliant!

What ideas does this bring to mind for the work you're doing with your students?

Searching for Smartboard information

One of the tried and true ways of finding information on the web is to use Google or any other search engine. But, there are lots of discussions going on with the Twitter crowd that you can also tap into and you don't need a Twitter account to do it. Try using Twitterfall.

When you go to this website, instructions are right there to help you get started.

The easiest thing for you to do is to search for a specific term.

So, when someone uses that term in a tweet, it'll show up in your results.  (be patient after you add a search, it takes a few seconds for this tool to connect with Twitter. ) This way you get to take advantage of the collective knowledge of other educators.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Flash Video in a Smart Notebook

UnitedStreaming, now known as Discovery Streaming, has for the past several years, provided us with the opportunity to download videos and video clips to use for instruction.  We know that, with a Smartboard, you can play those videos using the Smart Video Player which allows you to annotate the learning as the lesson goes on and gives you the opportunity to capture the notes from the learning to a Notebook file for use in subsequent lessons. 

The Smart Video Player will only play .wmv files which is what we usually download from Discovery Streaming.  However, now there is a new way to download those files to use in a Smart Notebook lesson - Flash video.  Flash is the same technology that is used for all those interactive files in the Lesson Activity Toolkit.

Go to Discovery Streaming and search for a video.  Click on one of the results and you'll see a window on the left side where you can stream the video just to preview it.  Right below that you'll see this:

Click on the dropdown next to Download Type.  There you'll see three choices.  If you choose the Flash option, you'll be downloading the video in a format that can be inserted into a Smart Notebook. Now download the video clip.

Open a Smart Notebook (one that you've saved that's appropriate for your video or a new one), choose Insert, then choose Flash file.  This will place the video right on the Notebook page where you can move it, resize it and play it during a lesson.  Now you can take notes as the video plays and save those notes for review in another lesson.

What's the advantage of Flash?  I can think of two right away.  The first is that Flash video files are smaller file sizes (saves room on our servers!) and the second is being able to take notes right next to the video or perhaps by using the split screen so that the video is playing on one page and you're taking notes on the other page.

Scribble Maps

One tool that you might use in your Social Studies curriculum for geography is Google Maps. Since you're using Google Maps online, the Ink layer on the Smartboard is enabled when you use any of the pens to make annotations to a map. The work you do with a map can be captured to a Notebook page.

Here's another option you might want to try called Scribble Maps. With this you won't have to use the Ink layer at all. Just go to the site and you'll find all the tools you need to reposition the map, zoom in and out, "scribble" on the map with different colors, add placemarkers, etc. The "scribbling" part can be done with your finger using the Scribble Maps toolbar.

In terms of lesson design and learning, you'd most likely be working with a map at the point where you're presenting new information. By capturing the learning from today's lesson, you're ready to activate prior knowledge tomorrow to help your students make those important connections between prior and new knowledge. As you continue instruction, you're creating an archive of student learning. The Smartboard and its software are such good tools for learning!