Often I get asked ‘How do you find all the cool tools that you talk about in your blog?’ Well the truth is I get them from a variety of sources including my Personal Learning Network through Twitter, Skype and through random google searches. However one of the most powerful and easy ways I find things is through RSS and my subscription to Killerstartups. Basically Killerstartups reviews 15+ Internet ‘startups’ daily giving you the choice to vote for which you think will be the next big hit or ‘killer’ as they are known. So far it has provided me with an amazing amount of new tools that I check on a daily basis, looking for anything that could potentially be used within education. A quick review of the top 10 for the month of January shows things like;
1) www.wobook.com - Wobook can be best-described as a platform that enables any writer to publish his or her own book as an interactive 3D book.
2) www.tadcast.com- A way to monetize your Youtube Clips
3) www.wikiworldbook.com – The global address book…
If your already aware of Killerstartups then this won’t be all that helpful for you. However If you haven’t, then I suggest you subscribe via RSS and be sure to let me know when you find something useful for the classroom.
The first 3 days back at school have been hectic to say the least even without having any students back as yet. However I have been playing with and finding some new tools that could very well find places within my classes. Here are a few of my favourites.
1) Blue Chat – Bluechat is a free bluetooth messaging software. Bluechat allows you to see other Bluechat users around, ping anyone of them, and create either private chat sessions or public messaging rooms via Bluetooth. Given that my Outdoor Education subject will be utilising mobile phones to deliver its content, I could see this as a useful addition. Here are a few of my ideas of how it could be used.
- Use it as an alternative to a ‘backchannel’ when computers arent available such as on camps and excursions
- All student’s could get across their questions/thoughts on a topic that would be recorded on the teachers phone for review at a later stage
- Have students author a class story/narrative through bluechat that required them to respond to each others single sentences and continue the story
2) Prezi - Ever wanted to create a truly unique presentation? Well this is for you. As Rodd Lucier of The Clever Sheep fame says ” Prezi turns traditional slide presentations on their ear!”. Basically it lets you create a zooming presentation that gives the users much more control over which slides they view. The best explanation for Prezi I’ve heard so far is from Mobbsey who told me “Imagine the screen is like a drafting table with all the “bits” of your presentation scattered across it. You then set up a path through the jumble and it zooms through them when you click forward”. Anyway the best thing to do is to see how it works for yourself and sign up.
3) Wiffiti This one is very very cool. Wiffit lets you SMS a text message to a unique number that you set during the sign up process, that is then dsiplayed in a wordle type arangement. So as the messages arrive in, they are updated and included on the online ‘billboard’. The only problem here is that this service is at present only available to residents of the USA, however a web based input will be alternative is in the works and should be included soon. So how do I think I could use it? Well…
- Students could text/type in questions/thoughts on topics that are then displayed instantly and visually for all to see, ultimately giving everyone a voice within the classroom.
- It would help students identify key themes within topics as these would appear more often on the ‘billboard’
- Could be used for revision type sessions where students create the questions the rest of the class needs to respond to
- The teacher could use it as a form of feedback at the end of a session or class
Given the list of exceptional tools coming out these days this list could go on and on, however i’ll keep some more exciting ones for post in a few days. Let me know if you have used these before and whether or not you have any ideas of how they could be used further. Meanwhile I better get back to organising my first classes for 2009.
Yesterday I started setting up my online spaces for the new school year at my www.mrrobbo.comwebsite which managed to work extremely well last year. However the problem with the website was that it was more of a repository of content that I had created, allowing students to re-print worksheets, re-read instructions and download additional class material. This was fine but in order for the student’s to contribute we had to use external services which ultimately resulted in students having to remember countless login names and passwords which caused a few problems here and there.
Anyway after finding www.edu20.org online I thought it would be perfect for my two senior classes, namely Physical Education & Outdoor Education, so I created a teacher account and started setting up my classes. Within two minutes I had both classes online, ready to take enrolments. Initially I was worried that It would be difficult for my students to learn as it was so feature heavy, however its design is really smooth and the layout just makes perfect sense. Within the next 10 minutess I had explored the extent of the features and began to look excited to using it in 09. So click the picture below to enlarge and see what Edu20.org offers.
After reading the features you may very well be saying, “We already have an LMS, why would I want to use this?”. Well truthfully you may very well find it useless, however at my school we don’t have a full time computer technician who can setup and run the more well known Learning Management Systems, so this is absolutely PERFECT for my situation. Another way I could see it used is within our Personal Learning Networks. We could use it to setup an online class with all the great tutorials and resources that I see coming through my Twitter feed daily. You could also use it to run Professional Development classes in Web 2.0 for teachers from all over the world.
Given its so simple to use and it just works, there is no reason why you couldn’t introduce it into your school as the LMS. The best thing about it, is that its purely web based and requires no servers and technicians and in the push towards ‘Cloud Computing’ it seems like a logical choice for me. I’ll be sure to let you know how it turns out. If you have any thoughts on its use or if your using it yourself I’d love to read your comments.
The other day while I was back in my hometown I was reading a local electronics store catalogue and my eyes caught a hold of something that got me quite interested. They were selling 1GB MP3 players for $14 (normally $38) that had a tiny LCD screen, drag and drop file upload, a voice recorder and FM radio capabilities. Anyway as soon as I read the list of things it could do I rushed over to Shepparton to buy 5 of them for one of my senior classes this year.
This year I’m teaching Year 11 Physical Education which only has 5 students, which is quite heavy on theoretical content and the links it makes with physical activity. This is my 2nd year teaching this subject and it lends itself really well to podcasting (much like Douchy’s Biology Class), so immediately I thought that these MP3 players would be a great addition to the class. Their simplicity is probably one of the best features about them, they require no software and simply connect to the computer via USB and work exactly like a flash drive. The recordings can be retrieved from a folder on the disk entitled ‘recordings’ which will be very easy for the student’s to understand.
Anyway I’ve decided that i’m going to give the MP3 players to the students for the duration of the semester and will use them for a variety of tasks and activities throughout the unit. Here are just a few of my ideas.
- As one of the Assessments the students will be given a week or topic they have to summarise in audio podcast that will be recorded using Audacity and distributed to all the other students in the class for revision.
- Will preload podcasts and audio clips created by myself onto the MP3 player for use throughout the semester.
- Will teach students how to make voice recordings and allow them to create audio ‘cheat’ sheets for assessments tasks, which they can then bring into the assessments.
- As we do alot of practical sessions and then complete write ups of our findings after I will encourage the students to make recordings of their findings as they happen to assist in the report writing after.
- Will have the students tune into the sports news on the radio to hear the latest news as knowledge of current events dramatically improves the discussion of key content.
- To mix things up I may use www.readthewords.com to convert text files into spoken word MP3 that the kids can then play back with the players.
Overall I’m very happy with the purchase and look forward to seeing their reactions when I present them each with a MP3 player and a pre loaded spoken word test on the very first day of classes. Now I’m fully aware that they are not the best of quality but will be fine for how they are required this year.I will be sure to update everyone on how it all pans out this year. Any suggestions on how else I could use these devices?
On Saturday night I took my girlfriend to see ‘Wicked’ the musical for her birthday and as we were waiting in the foyer before the show I noticed a series of posters informing people to turn their bluetooth enabled devices on to automatically receive free promotional multimedia. I thought this was really cool and as my bluetooth is set to auto receive files it wasnt long until my phone beeped and let me know I had received a video. After a little investigating I found a computer sitting behind one of the posters which got me thinking that I could possibly create one of these automatic bluetooth file servers using my own bluetooth enabled laptop.
A quick google search and I found two simple ways to create a free Bluetooth server that automatically sends specified files to devices as they become discovered. This is what I found…
Althought both these programs has been designed with marketing in mind, they could easily be used within a classroom context for all sorts of activities. Here are just a few ideas of how I could use it in a classroom.
1) As student’s walk in they receive a text file detailing the instructions for the lesson
2) Students receive by random (Can be done in Blueminer) multimedia content for all sorts of classroom activities
3) Students receive at the end of the lesson a download of the PowerPoint or the notes used throughout the class
Just a few ideas of how I could use such a really exciting technology. How do you think it could be used?
If you read my post below or follow me on Twitter you will have noticed my excitement about QR codes and their potential in education. So i’ve decided to set a little bit of a challenge that will ultimately teach you how to use QR codes. If you read this post you can find out how to set it up on your mobile phone and how to scan the code to receive the information containted within it.
So here it is…..The first person to describe what this code links to will win some CHOCOLATE that I will be happy to post to your address. Hahaha I’m serious…
Make sure you let me know how you think QR codes could be used in the classroom. Any ideas would be very appreciated. Good luck.