Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Hatching Tools for Education at the Innovation Incubator

This week I served as a judge for the Software & Information Industry Association’s (SIIA) Innovation Incubator program.  SIIA states that this program “identifies and supports entrepreneurs in their development and distribution of innovative learning technologies.”  The winning innovation will be awarded the Educator's Choice Award at the Ed Tech Industry Summit (May 5-7, 2013).
Overall I was impressed with all of the entries.  Each innovation seemed to offer a benefit to classroom teachers and most included tools to help with instruction.  Most entries focused on encouraging thinking skills and many innovations promoted the idea that students need to be allowed to operate in a flexible, real-world environment where they are not given the right answer, but have to utilize critical thinking and problem solving skills to arrive at a conclusion.  This is a direction that I have tried to take my instruction in teaching U.S. History and I know many other educators strive to meet this same goal, possibly even more so with the adoption of the Common Core Standards across most of the country. 
Below are my thoughts on each of the entries in the Innovation Incubator program:
Citelighter, Citelighter Inc
Citelighter is a tool to help students research and organize information to write papers.  The features of Citlighter that I found unique are its ability to open as a sidebar in Google Docs to allow students to have their research right there as they write and the fact that it generates reports for teachers allowing analytical data for the teacher to see which part of the process students may need help with.
simCEO creates an online market simulation allowing students to recognize key economic factors.  Students simultaneously run a business and invest in corporations controlled by their peers, requiring them to recognize the effects of various factors upon the economy.  Market conditions can be altered by the teacher and different scenarios can be set up to allow for the achievement of different learning goals.  One example given during the presentation was a scenario set in Boston in 1770 to demonstrate the effects of British taxes on colonial businesses.
Naiku, Naiku, Inc.
Naiku is an assessment program that allows teachers to guide instruction based upon data from formative assessments.  Naiku provides automated scoring and reports aligned to standards allowing teachers to adapt instruction to student needs.  I don’t know how unique Naiku is, but it seemed to have an easy-to-use interface and it is compatible with any web enabled device (desktop computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc.).
scrible, scrible
scrible is a web app that allows users to annotate websites for research.  Students are able to highlight, take notes, and annotate key information in addition to using scrible to organize and sort information.  scrible also generates citations for a research project.  I know of several products that serve similar purposes as scrible, but without conducting further research, I don’t know if any combine all of these functions within one application.
mAuthor, Learnetic S.A.
mAuthor allows users to create content that is viewable on any platform.  This service appears to be easy to use and does not require any programming skills.  mAuthor allows for the creation of original content or customization of existing content to allow for viewing on any device with any screen size.  This would be particularly useful for schools that have gone to a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach.  
See.Touch.Learn., Brain Parade, LLC
See.Touch.Learn is designed to help provide services for special needs students.  This application allows for assessment based on visual images and can help with learning names of people and everyday objects.  Lessons can range from identifying objects/people to higher-level categorization and associations.  See.Touch.Learn allows users to utilize existing content or create new content to meet the needs of learners.
ParentSquare, ParentSquare
ParentSquare is a little different than most of the other entries highlighted during the Innovation Incubator program because it does not directly relate to instruction, but it still offers benefits to teachers by attempting to improve communication with parents.  ParentSquare allows teachers or school officials to post announcements, requests, pictures, etc. online and to have messages emailed to parents.  Although I don’t know a lot of specifics, I believe there are other programs that serve similar functions.  Without knowing much about the other applications, I can’t offer a true comparison, but ParentSquare appears easy to use and it seems to serve the purpose it was designed for.
Shmoop, Shmoop University, Inc.
I had some familiarity with Shmoop before the Innovation Incubator program and Shmoop’s presentation confirmed some of what I already knew as well as informing me of new and upcoming features.  Shmoop claims to “speak student” by explaining concepts in a fun, interesting manner that students can relate to.  Shmoop offers material relevant to a number of different subject areas as well as test review materials.  Some of the new features of Shmoop that I learned about during their presentation include the development of short videos to teach key concepts and the creation of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses).  
Globaloria, World Wide Workshop
Globaloria is designed to allow students to create games.  As a game design platform, Globaloria seems to have a variety of educational applications and possibilities.  As educators, we know that programming skills are becoming more and more important and often pique student interest; Globaloria allows a platform to incorporate these skills into an existing curriculum.  I did not feel like I gained a solid grasp of how Globaloria works during their presentation, but the concept behind it seems beneficial to students and teachers.
zondle, zondle
zondle is another game based learning application.  zondle allows users to create games or use ready-made games that are accessible on web-based or mobile platforms.  Another nice feature of zondle is that it allows users to monitor their progress.  Users can compare their performance over time as well as seeing which questions they struggled with.  I see zondle primarily as a way to review concepts already studied in class and there are several similar products in existence, but zondle seems to meet its objective of using games to support learning.
I could envision ways that teachers could incorporate each innovation in an educational setting.  Although some of the innovations were not unique in the services they offered, each seemed to meet a need for educators/students and nearly all of them promoted critical thinking skills by students.
The winners of SIIA’s Innovation Incubator program will be announced Tuesday, May 7 at the Ed Tech Industry Summit.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Picture Perfect – Creating Animoto Videos to Illustrate Life During the Great Depression

Today I came across one of the numerous lists of top 10 technology tools for teachers.  As I scrolled through the list I saw several resources I was familiar with, a few new tools, and a couple of resources that I have used in the past, but had forgotten about.  While scanning this list I began thinking about some of the web-based technologies that I have had success with.
One of my favorite technology tools for the classroom is Animoto.  Animoto is a web-based tool that allows users to create high quality videos that incorporate pictures, videos, and text all set to music.  One of the reasons I really enjoy Animoto is because of the simplicity of creating a professional looking video.  Students get very excited to create these videos and it does not take an extended amount of class time.  Anyone who is unfamiliar with Animoto should view the sample of videos created for educational purposes.  
Animoto allows users to create a free 30 second video, or teachers can apply for a free Education Account which will give you a promo code that allows you to create 50 Animoto Plus accounts. Animoto provides some helpful hints about setting up these accounts, including a method to create multiple accounts associated with the same email address.
As with other technology tools, it is important that Animoto is used to achieve an academic objective rather than simply being a toy to play on the computer.  To this end, Animoto’s blog includes a post discussing 6 ways to use Animoto in the classroom.  I have used Animoto for several different U.S. History projects, including an I Love the . . . project where students focus on a particular decade to create a video that highlights significant events from the era.  I think the most successful Animoto project I have utilized relates to the Great Depression.  There are so many powerful photos from this era that it helps to reinforce the suffering experienced by many Americans in the 1930s.
To ensure the achievement of academic goals, I begin this project by assigning students an essential question to research.  I use the following questions:
  1. How did the Great Depression affect the lives of American workers?
  2. What hardships did urban residents face during the Great Depression?
  3. How did the Dust Bowl affect rural residents during the Great Depression?
  4. How did popular culture offer an escape from the Great Depression?
  5. How did the Great Depression affect family life and the attitudes of Americans?
  6. How did the Roosevelt administration address the concerns of African Americans?
  7. How were women affected by the Great Depression?
  8. How were children affected by the Great Depression?
  9. How was Franklin Roosevelt viewed by American citizens?
  10. How did the New Deal affect American citizens?
After completing their research, students must submit an essay that provides an answer to their essential question.  This ensures that students understand the historical significance of their topic.
Upon completion of the essay, students may begin gathering images that help support their response to an essential question.  To ensure that students are gathering pictures related to their topic, I require them to write a brief explanation of how each picture helps to support their essay. 
Students are now ready to create their videos.  Animoto has made this an extremely simple process.  Students simply have to upload pictures and/or videos, choose their music and add text to their video.  Although text is limited to 90 characters per slide, it is possible to add more text by using PowerPoint to create an image file of the text.  This offers a method of increasing text, however, I usually encourage my students to try to limit their text to the 90 characters allowed by Animoto.  This allows them to add some explanation, but it ensures that the images are still the focus of the video.
I have had excellent experiences with Animoto.  Student comments on Animoto have been overwhelmingly positive.  Many students talk about showing their projects to their parents and friends.  This verifies my hopes that Animoto can be a tool that piques student interest while allowing for the achievement of academic standards.  

Below are a few examples of Animoto videos created by my students.



Friday, February 22, 2013

He Said, He Said -- Creating Animated Videos About Martin Luther King & Malcolm X

Today’s snow day here in Omaha gives me the opportunity to share another lesson idea.  I have used this lesson idea a few times as part of a unit on the civil rights movement, which also corresponds with African American History Month.  This lesson idea goes along with the latter part of our unit on the civil rights movement.  By this time, we have already studied events that spurred the civil rights movement as well as many of the early gains made by activists in this era.  The purpose of this activity is to illustrate the different thinking that contributes to the splintering of the civil rights movement in the mid to late 1960s.  
I begin this lesson by asking students to analyze the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s (SNCC) Statement of Purpose from 1960 and to compare this to an excerpt from a speech by Stokely Carmichael (Chairman of SNCC) in 1966. 
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Founding Statement, April, 1960
We affirm the philosophical or religious ideal of nonviolence as the foundation of our purpose, the presupposition of our belief, and the manner of our action. 
Nonviolence, as it grows from the Judeo-Christian tradition, seeks a social order of justice permeated by love. Integration of human endeavor represents the crucial first step towards such a society. 
Through nonviolence, courage displaces fear. Love transcends hate. Acceptance dissipates prejudice; hope ends despair. Faith reconciles doubt. Peace dominates war. Mutual regards cancel enmity. Justice for all overthrows injustice. The redemptive community supersedes immoral social systems. 
By appealing to conscience and standing on the moral nature of human existence, nonviolence nurtures the atmosphere in which reconciliation and justice become actual possibilities. 
Although each local group in this movement must diligently work out the clear meaning of this statement of purpose, each act or phase of our corporate effort must reflect a genuine spirit of love and good-will.

Black Power Address by Stokely Carmichael (SNCC Chairman), Oct. 1966 
Now we are now engaged in a psychological struggle in this country, and that is whether or not black people will have the right to use the words they want to use without white people giving their sanction to it; and that we maintain, whether they like it or not, we gonna use the word "Black Power" -- and let them address themselves to that; but that we are not going to wait for white people to sanction Black Power. We’re tired waiting; every time black people move in this country, they’re forced to defend their position before they move. It’s time that the people who are supposed to be defending their position do that. That's white people. They ought to start defending themselves as to why they have oppressed and exploited us.
And then, therefore, in a larger sense there's the question of black people. We are on the move for our liberation. We have been tired of trying to prove things to white people. We are tired of trying to explain to white people that we’re not going to hurt them. We are concerned with getting the things we want, the things that we have to have to be able to function. The question is, Can white people allow for that in this country? The question is, Will white people overcome their racism and allow for that to happen in this country? If that does not happen, brothers and sisters, we have no choice but to say very clearly, "Move over, or we’re going to move on over you."

This opening activity allows for practice analyzing primary source documents while also introducing the growing debate among activists over the best method to achieve their goals.  After walking students through their analysis of these documents and leading a discussion about different views on civil rights, students are prompted to predict possible reasons that some civil rights activists began shifting away from nonviolence as a means of achieving change.
This discussion of the merits of nonviolence vs. the appeal of violent resistance leads us toward the two people most associated with these divergent views on civil rights; Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.  To further understand the beliefs of these two leaders, students will analyze primary and secondary sources and develop a fictional dialogue between the two men.  
Each student is assigned to play the role of either Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr.  Students will analyze a secondary source to gain background knowledge about the figure they were assigned (I have used as a source for background information -- Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X).  Each student will also analyze a primary source to further explain each man’s opinion of the best way to advance civil rights for African Americans.  Students assigned to Martin Luther King Jr. will read The Power of Nonviolence and those assigned to Malcolm X will read A Summing Up: Louis Lomax Interviews Malcolm X.  When I have done this activity with my AP U.S. History class I leave the documents as they are, but for my honors 9th grade U.S. History class I have edited the readings to allow for improved comprehension.  These readings could take a while to complete, so depending on the amount of class time available, they could be assigned as homework.  It may also be beneficial to utilize think-pair-share or another strategy to allow students to discuss their readings with other students who had the same person in order to clarify key concepts.
Next I pair each student with one of their classmates who had the opposite person.  This pair of students is instructed to develop a fictional dialogue between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.  This dialogue must include a discussion of the goals of each man, their views as to the best way to achieve their goals, and the conversation must include at least four differences between the two leaders.
When students finish their dialogue and I can see that they understand the different points of view concerning civil rights, then they are instructed to create an animated video that illustrates these differences.  Xtranormal is a great source for this, it allows students to easily create animated videos in a short amount of time (GoAnimate offers a similar service as Xtranormal).  Students will need to set up a free account (or the teacher could set up accounts ahead of time).  Students may then choose a scene and characters (the free account limits these options somewhat, but there are still a number of choices).  Xtranormal does have a Martin Luther King Jr. character, but there is no Malcolm X, so I suggest that students either choose different characters to represent these two men or that they shift their dialogue so that it is not Malcolm X and Martin Luther King talking, but rather different people discussing the views of these two.  Students can then type their dialogue into Xtranormal and it will turn the text into speech.  Students also have some limited options as to actions of their characters.  I have found that many students get very interested in this lesson in part because they enjoy the opportunity to create animated videos on Xtranormal.
Through this lesson idea, students gain a better understanding of the differing views of civil rights as personified by Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, they practice the skill of analyzing primary source documents, and student interest is piqued through the creation of an animated video that demonstrates the divergent views on civil rights.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Think Outside the Box – Creating Virtual Cubes about the Civil Rights Movement

Made with Picture Cube
I can’t believe we’re already more than half way through February.  I had planned to have a series of short posts outlining lesson ideas for African American History Month, but I’ve gotten busy and here we are over half way through the month and I’ve yet to post any of these ideas.  I’m still going to try to post some of these ideas and hopefully they will still be useful.
Today’s lesson idea is actually one that I have not tried yet in class.  I subscribe to Richard Byrne’s blog Free Tech 4 Teachers (which is a great source of free resources for teachers), this week Richard posted about Brainy Box.  Brainy Box is an online presentation tool that allows users to create a six sided cube that can include text, images, videos, or links.  As I was reading Richard’s post about Brainy Box it brought to mind cube foldables, which I have used a couple of times in the past as a form of graphic organizer that allows students to record information in more of a hands-on way.  Brainy Box allows for the creation of a virtual foldable.  
I envision using Brainy Box to study key events from the civil rights movement.  I think I will assign small groups of students different events from the civil rights movement, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Integration of Central High in Little Rock, Sit-ins, Freedom Rides, Integration of the University of Mississippi, the March on Washington, and the March from Selma to Montgomery.  Each group will be responsible for gathering information on their assigned event and recording who was involved, what happened, where the event occurred, when the event took place, why the event took place (the cause), and how it affected the push for civil rights (the effect).  Along with the who, what, where, when, why, and how information that students gather, they will also find images to incorporate into their cubes.
My goal in this lesson idea is to allow students to practice gathering important information to learn about key historical events.  I think the use of Brainy Box will help to pique student interest as it is a new tool that students will perceive as more interesting than creating paper foldable cubes.