Looking to “open the portal” in your classroom and connect with the outside world? It’s easier than you think – I emailed a teacher from Puerto Rico yesterday through Skype Education, and this morning her students connected via Skype with 6th grade Spanish students from my school. At the snap of a finger – it happened. And the students were still talking about it at the end of the day.
Classrooms, authors guest speakers, virtual field trips are a few clicks away. Below are the best resources that I know of to instantly make these connections. Check them out, and give it a shot! Your students will be super engaged and grateful.
Authors on Twitter – This is an active Google Doc that lists authors’ Twitter handles – check them out, see who’s active and responds to readers, and you and your students can Tweet questions and make authentic connections.
Authors who Skype for Free! – Amazing list of authors that (at the very least) will video-chat with your classroom for 15 – 20 minutes….for free!
Skype Education – Teachers sign up and connect with classrooms and experts from around the world. Co-teach, plan virtual field trips, and collaborate with other students all in real-time. To find willing classrooms that are looking to make connections, a good place to start is the Skype Education Twitter feed. The Skype team consistently Tweets out interested teachers who are looking to make online, classroom connections – this lets you know who is eager to collaborate right now.
Mystery Skype – teachers register, and you Skype (live video chat) with a “mystery class” (the teachers know the location; the students do not). The students need to guess the location of the other classroom by asking questions. Teachers sign-up at the aforementioned page, and (big hint!) you can sort results by who has Twitter feeds (so you can see who is active online and is most likely to respond!). Find a classroom, and the students plan out and play “20 questions” to determine where the other classroom is located. It’s pretty popular – check out Mystery Skype on Twitter or check out the #mysteryskype hashtag to take part in the chatter.
Skype Guest Speakers – This is a bridge from the Skype Education site. Experts/professionals/speakers offer up live, interactive opportunities for classrooms. On the page, you’ll find dates and times for the events organized by subject. If you’re looking for a simple way to begin introducing your students to different cultures/topics, these pre-organized activities are a wonderful place to start.
ePals.com – Connect with classrooms from around the globe through email, video-chatting or other Web 2.0 forums. The teacher signs up at epals.com and searches/contacts other interested classroom teachers. For example, with ePals classroom matching, a middle school class studying Spanish can connect with a class studying English in Spain, or the classes can work on a special project together.
Google Connected Classrooms – Similar to Skype Guest Speakers, this site allows users to sign up and attend virtual field-trips. Depending on the activity, users can sometimes video-chat live with the presenters. For example, on November 21st, students can attend a Google Hangout with two NASA astronauts - questions can be asked using the #askNASA hashtag on Twitter.
Movenote may be the simplest online tool ever created for screencasting. The website syncs with your Google account and allows users to record themselves flipping through Google Presentations/Docs/PDFS, all while providing video narration from the webcam. Movenote hosts the finished product and allows the creator to send a direct link or embed the video. The website works on Chromebooks as well as Macs/PCs, and there’s even an app in the iTunes store and in the Google Play Store (for the demo at the bottom of the post I’ll be using the online version of Movenote).
How could your students use this tool? Off the top of my head:
Recap of the writing process (they review their own work/explain their thinking)
Analysis of lab results
Explaining a math problem
Authentic language practice (reading Spanish story-books, for example)
Digital Portfolios (showcase of digital work created over a project/term)
And for teachers – you can record lesson recaps/big ideas and post them to your website! (Amazing for absent students or simply reinforcing important learning concepts)
The main drawback is that you cannot record “live” drawing on a whiteboard (like Educreations/Explain Everything) or scrolling through a website (such as recording a screencast using QuickTime), but the webcam, syncing with Google, and utter simplicity of it all makes this a can’t miss tool to share amongst students and faculty. Plus – to turn a drawback into a positive – if a student is recording a book review or website analysis, he or she will be forced to take screenshots and put them into a Google Presentation. This is a GOOD thing, because now the student is planning and organizing more effectively instead of speaking off the cuff.
Click here to watch a sample Movenote to check out it’s capabilities. Cheers!
Here’s a quick Google tip: if you’re searching a topic on Google - black bears, for example – you can filter your search results by reading level. Google’s levels are basic, intermediate, and advanced.
To do this, simply perform your search. Then, click on “Search Tools” underneath the search bar. Click on “All Results” and select “Reading Level.”
Now, click on the reading level, and Google will filter your desired results!
Google recently released a beta version of a web application called Tour Builder. It allows users to create tours using Google Earth online, and it’s quite simple yet super powerful. Simply login with your Google account, choose the locations for your interactive tour, and then add pictures, video and text to tell your digital story. Here’s a few examples:
After reading the description, watching some examples, and trying out a tour of my own, my EdTech spidey senses were tingling. At it’s core Tour Builder is another digital storytelling tool, but what immediately stands out to me is it’s ease of use, cross-platform compatibility (although it doesn’t yet function on iPads or Chromebooks), authentic writing capabilities, precise mapping options and the ability to pull in a range of multimedia (including recording videos directly into the tour from your webcam).
How can you use this with your students? Off the top of my head, I suggest using Tour Builder for:
- Documenting and writing personal narratives
- Constructing an interactive biography of a relative
- Interviewing a war veteran and telling his/her story (bonus points for pulling in actual pictures of the person – imagine how amazing it would be to show a virtual tour of a war veteran’s time overseas to that person)
- Creating a character study from a fiction/non-fiction book (these can be written in first-person with the student pretending to be the character)
- Historical narratives
- Creating a tour of a foreign country (with the ability to record videos directly into Tour Builder, the students can document the journey while practicing speaking the language)
- Delivering traditional notes and lectures more dynamically
I can’t stress enough the importance of the writing piece within Tour Builder – with the ability to add dozens of locations to a tour and text blurbs (yes, you can write paragraphs!), this can take a normal 3-page essay assignment and turn it into an authentic-writing experience with a real-world audience.
There’s truly a lot of possibilities – feel free to leave a comment if you have any ideas, or find me on Twitter – @edtechavenger. I’d love to hear more ideas that I can share with faculty – thanks!
My apologies for the over-dramatic post title, but Twitter is really indispensable to me as an educator. When I’m searching for resources for lessons or professional development sessions, I always go to Twitter before I go to Google…and most of the time I don’t even make it to Google. The main reason? I have way more faith in the “upvoting” process and popularity of like-minded Twitter professionals than I do of SEO/algorithm searching. If a resource is working for people, it will rise/appear numerous times on my Twitter feed. And If I’m following the right people, their suggestions instantly validates it for me (or, at least validates me checking it out). And relevance? Twitter searches usually guarantee that the resource or link has been fairly recently published, typically from the last few months, if not weeks.
Looking to get started on Twitter, or simply looking to expand and branch out? Here’s some resources I’ve collated that will hopefully help. Tweet you later!
(Click the image to enlarge – courtesy of Teach Thought)
Creating timelines can oftentimes be a boring and uninspiring classroom activity – but TimelineJS completely revolutionizes the timeline game (dramatic, yes, but true – it really is that amazing). According to it’s website, TimelineJS is “an open-source tool that enables anyone to build visually,rich, interactive timelines. Beginners can create a timeline using nothing more than a Google spreadsheet.”
A collaborative project using Google Apps that incorporates popular and relevant media? Be still my heart!
In short, students use Google Spreadsheet to collaborate and build a rich and intuitive timeline, incorporating all sorts of media: Youtube videos, Flickr pics, Tweets, Google Maps, Wikipedia articles – the list goes on. It honestly hits every EdTech-related Common Core state standard, from publishing and integrating digital media, to utilizing proper citation and sourcing skills. It’s collaborative; it’s media-driven; it’s authentic; it’s engaging. Sixth grade science students in my school are currently building space history timelines, and I’ve already had conversations about using Timeline JS in the language arts classroom to create book reports and character studies – it goes with any subject, and it’s awesome.
Want to know more? Here’s some links to get you started:
Timeline JS (Digital Timeline Creator)
Common Core standard correlation:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
Looking for some ways to infuse EdTech into your Social Studies curriculum? Here’s some ideas to get you started:
Timeline JS (Digital Timeline Creator)
Gettysburg Battle App
- Go on a virtual-tour of the Gettysburg battlefield.
Digital Storytelling (on iPad or Mac):
- Memes are often clever and relevant – so why not make them using historical figures? Haiku Deck on the iPad is a great app to kick out a quick meme.
- Make a faux Facebook account for a historical figure, including adding comments and posts from the figure’s contemporaries.
6 Apps to Fall in Love With
- The above link details six (6) content-specific apps that can help reinforce specific curriculum concepts.
- Host real-time, discussions online in your classroom through a temporary chatroom. You can also export the chat and save the results.
Skype Education and ePals
- Video chat and collaborate with a classroom from another state or country.
Google Search results from another country (click for an example – searching “American Revolution” from British websites)
- To find results from another country, add site:country code to the end of a search – for example, search site:uk to search England, site:br for Brazil, etc
- Click here for a list of country codes.
Plan it Green
- According to Anibal Pacheco of Instructional Technology Solutions, Plan It Green is a “new cloud based online gaming community where students come together to learn more about the importance of recycling and how eco-friendly habits that can help save our environment. Plan It Green’s goal is to help students learn about the management of time and resources while socially interacting with others in a city building simulation game.”
World War 2 – Day by Day Video
- This video shows the changing front lines of the European Theater of World War II every day from the German invasion of Poland to the surrender of Germany.
- Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator.
- See popular headlines in countries around the world.
A Google A Day
Have you created a page to your Google site, but can’t figure out how to add it to the horizontal navigation (tab) bar on top? This video tutorial shows you how to do it – or, click here for PDF directions.
Screencasting is recording your computer screen and adding audio narration (think about any computer tutorial video you’ve watched, and now imagine you and your students doing this in the classroom!).
Screencasting allows the students to become the teachers. Students can teach and explain science concepts, diagram math problems, evaluate a website, debate a historical perspective or create a comprehensive book review using all sorts of multimedia. It’s really all-encompassing, and super-easy to boot. Finished videos can be uploaded to YouTube, posted to your class website, or simply shared and saved privately (but really, screencasts are meant to be shared!).
Teachers can use screencasting to reach visual learners, explain classroom concepts, and provide directions for absent students.
How do I screencast?
On a Mac, use the Quicktime Player to record screencasts. Below is a tutorial video, or, click here for a Google Doc which explains how to create a screencast and upload it to Google Drive.
Are there are any other good resources for screencasting?
Absolutely. Kathy Schrock’s “Screencasting in the Classroom” contains rubrics, links and other resources. Also, here’s an article from Edudemic detailing 11 reasons why teachers should be creating screencasts.