Tag: elearning (page 3 of 4)

How โ€˜microbloggingโ€™ sites such as Twitter can be used in education

microblogging_small

This week we’re going to be looking at three tools. I’ve labelled them ‘microblogging’ tools, but that’s something of a misnomer as they’re all much more powerful than that. If you do actually just want something to quickly and easily get content onto the Internet, try Tumblr or Posterous.

With that disclaimer out of the way, the three tools we’re going to look at are:

They all have slightly different uses and focuses, but I believe that they can all be used successfully within educational environments. I’ll discuss each in turn, looking at the features specifically relevant to educators.

Twitter logo

Obstensibly, Twitter is a micro social networking utility designed to answer the question ‘What are you doing?’ In practice, it’s used for a multitude of other things, from news reporting to marriage proposals(!).

Educators have been using Twitter ever since it was launched to connect to one another and share ideas, resource and links. There’s an element of social networking in it, inevitably, but it’s very professionally-focused and a wonderfully powerful thing to tap into.

Just launching yourself into Twitter will leave you baffled and confused. The Twitter experience is only as good as your network, consisting of those who you ‘follow’ (track updates of) and those who ‘follow’ you. The best way to do this is organically. By that, I mean:

  1. Find someone you want to follow on Twitter (@dajbelshaw is a good start…)
  2. Check out that user’s network and read the mini-biographies.
  3. Follow the users who look like they are related to something you’re interested in!

In terms of interaction, there’s 3 basic ways of interacting on Twitter:

  • Sending a ‘normal’ message that goes out ‘as-is’ to your network.
  • Replying to someone (or bringing something to their attention) by including their username preceded by an @ sign – e.g. @dajbelshaw then message. This can still be viewed by everyone who’s following you.
  • Sending a direct message by entering d <username> – e.g. d dajbelshaw then message. This can only be seen by the person to whom you sent the message and they will receive an email informing them of what you have sent.

If you want some ideas for how to use Twitter in an educational setting, you could do a lot worse than checking out Laura Walker’s post entitled Nine great reasons why teachers should use Twitter. Although I’ve tried using it with students, it’s not something I’d recommend for the faint-hearted. Use one of the other tools below for that. I see Twitter as being like a giant, worldwide staff room or cafรฉ. It’s great! ๐Ÿ˜€

Edmodo logo

Edmodo‘s just been upgraded to v2.0 and is an amazingly useful tool. The only reason I haven’t used it a lot more extensively is that it effectively replicates – for free – a lot of the features of very expensive, commercial Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs). For example, some of the features:

  • Set assignments for students (and attach files)
  • Manage classes
  • Share a calendar with fellow teachers and students
  • Interact in a safe and closed environment with students without sharing email addresses
  • Securely share learning resources
  • Grade students’ work

In their own words:

Edmodo provides a way for teachers and students to share notes, links, and files. Teachers have the ability to send alerts, events, and assignments to students. Edmodo also has a public component which allows teachers to post any privately shared item to a public timeline and RSS feed.

Although I haven’t used this with students yet, I know people who swear by it* and I’ve explored the features using test accounts. Certainly, if your school VLE isn’t up to scratch – or if you haven’t got one – you should definitely be checking out Edmodo!

* Josรฉ Picardo has discussed Edmodo on a couple of occasions in Edmodo: microblogging for the classroom and Edmodo: What students think – both well worth a read! ๐Ÿ™‚

Shout'Em logo

Shout’Em describes itself as a kind of roll-your-own micro social network:

Shout’Em is platform on which you can easily start co-branded microbloging social networking service. Something simple as Twitter or with more features like Pownce. It is up to you ๐Ÿ™‚

Networks on Shout’Em are “lightweight social networks”. They have small set of features: microblogging, links and photo sharing, geo location sharing and mobile browser support.

I think Shout’Em is probably best suited for those who want something a bit more engaging than a forum for their students, but not anything as full-blown as Edmodo. Shout’Em enables you to have a private community, like Edmodo, and they’ve even entitled a blog post on their official blog The 15-Minute Guide to Microblogging in Education!

Check out their video to find out more:

ShoutEm Demo from vikot on Vimeo.

Do any of these ‘microblogging’ services fill a need? Have you tried any of them? What did you think?

Podcasting: a 3-step guide

Podcasting overview (2)

Some members staff were unable to make some or all of the E-Learning sessions I put on regarding podcasting. I’m therefore re-running them this half-term over the next three weeks.

Ways to find great resources and ideas for lessons

 

lesson_resources_large1

Where do you get your lesson ideas from? Do you just follow the scheme of work? When you innovate what is the spark for your inspiration?

Do you sometimes struggle to find time to discover resources and wish there was somewhere you could go to prevent you from doing the lesson planning equivalent of rediscovering the wheel?

Where can I go other than search on Google?

Teachers in the UK are probably aware of the TESconnect Resource Hub. If you’re not, that’s a great place to start! Before the TES launched this, one of the main UK-based repositories for lesson plans and ideas was the Teacher Resource Exchange, run by the National Grid for Learning (NGfL).

Talking of the NGfL, they have regional hubs which can be found quickly by typing (for example) NGfL resources into your favourite search engine. ๐Ÿ™‚

Learning from colleagues in other schools

Most school subjects have spawned forums on the Internet where teachers of those subjects can discuss ideas, resources and issues. I know of the ones for subjects I currently teach (or have in the past) For example, History teachers have the History Teachers’ Discussion Forum and historyshareforum.com, Geography teachers have Staffordshire Learning Net, and teachers of ICT have the EffectiveICT.co.uk Forum.*

Searching for the name of your subject plus the word ‘forum’ in a search engine should bring up some promising links. Alternatively, try the excellent Shambles.net. Links galore! ๐Ÿ™‚

Digging deeper

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AaSnY4XjMg]
What about if you want do something original or obscure, though? That’s when finding websites that previous visitors have marked as especially useful would help you on your quest. Enter social bookmarking services. There are many of these, but the two main ones are Delicious and Diigo. The former has been discussed on elearnr before, but in a slightly different context.

The idea behind social bookmarking sites is that instead of saving your ‘favourites’ or ‘bookmarks’ in the web browser of one computer, you store them in an account online. You can then ‘tag’ these with keywords and make them visible for others to see. These sites then, as you can imagine, become very useful as hotbeds of links to fantastically useful websites.

Have a go right now. Head over to Delicious and Diigo and type in the name of your subject followed by resources. Click to enlarge the images below which show the results I obtained when entering history resources!

Delicious search results - 'History resources' Diigo search results - 'History resources'

The ultimate targeted resource and lesson idea finder

All of the above are great ways of using the power of communities to help you find something, but what about if you need something very, very specific – and fast? Enter Twitter.

Twitter is a micro-blogging social network. It’s like text messaging meets Facebook in that you have 140-characters to send a message. Educators worldwide use it en masse to share good practice, ask questions and find fast answers. A future E-Learning Staff Session and elearnr blog post will tell you all you need to get you signed up and interacting. ๐Ÿ™‚

What? You can’t wait? Head over to Twitter For Teachers to find out more!

___________

* My Twitter network directed me towards these additional forums:

** Thanks @mtechman for reminder of this excellent resource!

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The Problem with Promotion

***Update: For those who don’t know, I successfully applied to become Director of E-Learning at Northumberland Church of England Academy. Thanks for everyone’s advice and guidance!***

Decisions, decisions...

I’m loving my role as E-Learning Staff Tutor at my current school. I get to teach 16 out of 30 lessons per week whilst having time to spend with staff developing their use of educational technology.

But there’s a problem. ๐Ÿ™

I don’t earn enough. Now before you castigate me as some type of money-grabbing not-in-it-for-the-kids type of person, let me (rather paradoxically) state that I’d quite happily teach for free. If I had a roof over my head and food on the table, as a single man I would give up my time to educate children. I love it.

There’s the rub, though. I’m not a single man. I’m happily married with a two-year-old son and a wife who wants to spend time at home with him. That’s where I want her to be too. Hence the need for me to earn more to keep my family happy.

So what do I do?

As a teacher in England, there’s two paths traditionally open to teachers seeking promotion:

  1. Become Head of Department in your chosen subject. This then can lead onto an Assistant Headship, Deputy Headship, and ultimately a Headship.
  2. Become Head of Year or seek out some other pastoral role. This too can lead to an Assistant Head position, Deputy Head and then Head.

I don’t want either. Heads of Department have to deal with a lot of admin and jump through a lot of hoops that would infuriate me and lead to me not enjoying my job. And on the other hand, I have never had an interest in the pastoral side of education (over and above my role as a form teacher, which I deem important).

There needs to be some type of New Labour-ish ‘Third Way’ for teachers. I can see what the suggestion is going to be already: become an AST! (Advanced Skills Teacher). Erm, no thanks. We have had a few of those visit my school. Not the type of thing I want to do at all.

So I’m left with some other options. As far as I can see, I’m left with options that take me out of the classroom:

  • Lecturer/researcher at a university (once I’ve finished my Ed.D.)
  • Freelance advisor/researcher/consultant
  • Consultant for an organization (e.g. a Local Authority)

Any ideas? ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

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Interesting ways to use Twitter in the classroom

After a suggestion received, quite fittingly, from another Twitter user, Tom Barrett is weaving his magic again. This time, after getting educators to collaborate on ways in which Interactive Whiteboards, Google Earth, Google Docs, and Pocket Video Cameras can be used in education he’s turned his (and his network’s) sights on Twitter:

I got involved straight away – in fact mine’s the first tip on there! Get involved by contacting Tom (@tombarrett) ๐Ÿ™‚

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Podcasting: Step 2 – Recording and editing your podcast

rss_headphones
Read/act on this first:
Podcasting: Step 1 – RSS and setting up a teacher blog

In the last session we set up a blog and learned what RSS was. Let’s just remind ourselves of what podcasting is, shall we?

So podcasting is when you deliver audio files to ‘subscribers’ automatically using an RSS feed. This RSS feed is generated automatically by the Posterous-powered blog you set up in Step 1. ๐Ÿ™‚

In this session we’re going to be using a program called Audacity. This is available for all platforms – Windows, Mac and Linux. It is free and Open Source software. Audacity is already installed on the computers we shall be using at school, but if you need to download it at home, you can find it here: http://audacity.sourceforge.net

Note: we will need a ‘plugin’ for Audacity to be able to export to MP3 format, but we’ll leave that for next session!

Instead of re-inventing the wheel, we’ll be making use of the excellent video guides to using Audacity that can be found here: http://www.how-to-podcast-tutorial.com/17-audacity-tutorial.htm

These are the ones you should focus on today:

  1. The editing tools
  2. Basic editing and trimming your audio
  3. Importing audio and adding music to your podcast

When you save your audio, just save it as a WAV file. We’ll work on exporting to MP3 next time. If you’re looking for music that you can legally and safely use in your podcasts, check out the links at the bottom of the Wikipedia page for ‘Podsafe’.

Podcasting: Step 1 – RSS and setting up a teacher blog

Podcast

Over the next three weeks, staff e-learning sessions will focus on getting started with podcasting. This first session starts off with the basics you will need as a teacher before even pressing that ‘record’ button:

  1. An understanding of what RSS is.
  2. A blog onto which to put MP3 files.

The easiest way to get your head around what RSS is and how it means that audio files can be delivered to interested parties automatically is by watching this excellent explanatory video prepared by CommonCraft:

A podcast differs from simply placing an audio file on the Internet because of RSS. It means that new content can be ‘pushed’ to interested parties rather than them having to manually check for updates. The process of interested parties requesting that podcasts are delivered automatically is known as ‘subscribing’.

Now that you know what RSS is, you need to have a mechanism by which you can generate one. In our case, this is going to be a blog. Anything that you add to a blog post will be automagically turned into a subscribable podcast.

To learn how to set up a blog, check out the elearnr guide entitled:
Creating a homework blog in 3 simple steps using email

If you want to jump ahead and have a go podcasting before the next session, you should visit the Box of Tricks website where Josรฉ Picardo has put together an excellent short presentation entitled Podcasting in Five Easy Steps. ๐Ÿ˜€

SEN Department E-Learning Session

My school’s Special Educational Needs department asked me to do an E-Learning Session just for them, as many within the department couldn’t make my lunchtime sessions for one reason or another:

One of the tools I recommended I haven’t yet done an E-Learning Staff Session on. That’s Voki – here’s a sample of what you can do:

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Get a Voki now!

I’ve run a session – and therefore created guides to – the other four web applications I recommend for SEN practitioners:

My Twitter network, as ever, were extremely helpful – although unfortunately I received some of the ideas after I’d finalised the resources:

5 interesting web applications to mess around with when you’re bored over Christmas!

Since the beginning of this term I’ve run one session per week in my role as E-Learning Staff Tutor. The most common question after ‘How come you get so many free periods?’ is Where do you get all your e-learning ideas from?

I can finally reveal the answer. I get most of them from… Twitter!

It’s probably best to show Twitter in action rather than just try to explain it. It’s a bit like a hybrid of the best bits of Facebook and Here’s the message I sent to my Twitter network on Tuesday evening as I was leaving school at around 4pm:

And here’s the response I got by the time I’d got home and had a cup of coffee!

…and then later, when educators in other places around the world weren’t asleep:

Depending on the time of day and who’s in your Twitter network depends on where in the world you get your responses from. It’s like ‘microblogging’, crossed with text messaging (you’ve only got 140 characters) and a social network all rolled into one. You can share links, ideas and resources really quickly and easily. ๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s links, in alphabetical order, to the sites mentioned above. My top 5 are in bold, whilst those in red are those currently blocked by our school network. If you’re reading this and from somewhere else in the world, your mileage may vary… :-p

  • Animoto – an easy way to create high-quality and engaging videos using images and text
  • Backpack– an organizer (calendar, group discussion tools, etc.)for small businesses and organizations
  • blip.tv – a video sharing service designed for creators of user-generated content
  • Bloglines – an RSS feed reading application
  • Blogger/Blogspot – a blogging platform by Google
  • Delicious – online ‘social’ bookmarking
  • Diigo – online ‘social’ bookmarking with advanced features and groups
  • Dropbox – store, sync and share files online
  • Drop.io – privately share files up to 100MB online
  • Edublogs.org – a blogging platform dedicated to educational blogging
  • Edublogs.tv – online video sharing and embedding tool
  • Eduspaces – a social network and blogging platform for education
  • Elluminate – ‘elearning and collaboration solution’ (not free)
  • Evernote – ‘allows you to capture information (text, photos, etc.) and make it accessible from anywhere
  • Flickr – a photo-sharing website with Creative Commons-licensed content
  • GMail – an online email application from Google that provides lots of free storage
  • Google Calendar – a web-based calendar application that has RSS feeds and a reminder service
  • Google Docs – stores documents online and allows collaboration with others
  • Google Earth – a more powerul and 3D version of Google Maps (requires installation)
  • Google Maps – online mapping with advanced features
  • Google Reader – an RSS feed reading application
  • Google Scholar – search academic journals and articles
  • iGoogle – customizable home page (.com blocked at our school, .co.uk not!)
  • Kizoom – web-based ‘intelligent’ public transport alerter and organizer
  • Last.fm – a social network built around music that also recommends music based on your listening habits
  • MobileMe – online synchronization service for Apple users (not free)
  • Moodle – an Open-Source content management system based on constructivist principles (requires installation on a web server)
  • Ning – allows you to create your own social network very easily
  • Posterous – very simple and easy-to-use blogging platform
  • PBwiki – an easy-to-use wiki creation tool
  • Picnik – powerful online image-editing application
  • PingMe – a social and mobile interactive reminder service for getting things done
  • Remember The Milk – an online to-do list with advanced features
  • Second Life – a 3D ‘virtual world’ (requires software download)
  • SlideShare – upload and share presentations
  • Syncplicity – sync, store and share files online
  • TeacherTube – YouTube for educational videos
  • Toodledo – an online to-do list
  • Twitter – a micro social-networking tool
  • UStream – live video streaming and chat rooms
  • VoiceThread – allows comments around content such as videos, pictures and Powerpoints
  • Voki – make your own speaking avatar to embed in your blog, wiki or website
  • Wetpaint – a good-looking wiki creation tool
  • Wikispaces – a wiki creation tool
  • WordPress – a highly-configurable Open-Source blogging platform (requires installation on a web server)
  • Zoho Show – create collaborative, online Powerpoint-like presentations

Remember, with collaborative applications you have to give a little to get a little for it to be really useful. Try out Twitter over the holiday period. Merry Christmas!

PS Twitter’s best used with a dedicated program rather than the web interface. I recommend the wonderful TweetDeck, available for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux. ๐Ÿ™‚

Beyond boring Powerpoint presentations.

It’s easy to create a bad Powerpoint presentation. That’s because it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that because your audience is looking at something, they’re engaged with and by it. What is gained in clarity can be lost in repetition and boredom. Below are some ways to use Powerpoint more effectively and alternatives to spice up your content delivery.

First, though, here’s Don McMillan explaining some of the REALLY bad ways people use Powerpoint:

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var so = new SWFObject(“http://www.edublogs.tv/flvplayer.swf”,”mpl”,”450″,”355″,”8″);so.addParam(“allowscriptaccess”,”always”);so.addParam(“allowfullscreen”,”true”);so.addVariable(“height”,”355″);so.addVariable(“width”,”450″);so.addVariable(“file”,”http://www.edublogs.tv/uploads/xvvgpn8zukcgkwgx.flv”);so.addVariable(“searchbar”,”false”);so.write(“player”);

5 quick tips if you MUST use Powerpoint…

  1. Never use a font size smaller than 24pt. If you have a large classroom, you may need to go even bigger than this. Stand at the back and check!
  2. Limit the number of words you have per slide. Don’t use them as an aid to remind you what to say. They should enhance what you are talking about, not repeat it! A great way is to limit yourself to 5 words and 5 bullet points. Alternatively, just use an image to represent your idea/concept/instruction.
  3. Find graphics that represent things you do frequently in lessons (perhaps from clipart) and always use these when doing a similar activity. For example, a pen writing for when it’s time to start work or two people talking for discussion/group work. These help reinforce good habits and aid classroom management.
  4. Use contrasting colours. The easiest way to do this is to choose an option from the ‘Slide Design’ menu. Otherwise, remind yourself of the colour wheel.
  5. Limit the number of different slide transitions in a presentation. One or two is classy, lots of different ones looks unprofessional.

Beyond Powerpoint…

There are lots of different tools that do a similar job to Powerpoint. For example, Keynote on the Mac and OpenOffice.org Impress (all platforms). But you don’t want to simply replicate Powerpoint’s functionality, you want to move beyond it.

Method 1 – Online presentations

Creating presentations on, or uploading presentations to, the Internet can be extremely useful. Not only does it give you access to better visual effects than Powerpoint can offer, but it makes them readily available to your students outside the lesson. The following three slides are taken from part of the very first lesson I had with Year 7 this academic year:

This is the same presentation when I uploaded it to Google Docs and tinkered slightly:

And here it is in the wonderful SlideRocket after using some of its functionality:

Zoho Show is another option. All of these are completely free or have a free basic option. I’d recommend Google Docs if you’d like to collaborate (or students to collaborate) on presentations and SlideRocket for fancy effects. The latter has a desktop version, although you have to upgrade your account to a paid-for version to be able to download it. Of course, if you just want to make your presentations available online, you could use SlideShare

Method 2 – Add interactive elements

  • Need to show some statistics and figures? Try richchartlive.com!
  • Add a short video clip to your presentation. Find it on YouTube, or another video-sharing site. Download and convert it (in this case to MOV or WMV format) via Zamzar.com. There’s an elearnr guide on how to do this here. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • The PicLens plugin for Powerpoint 2007 means you’re not restricted to a linear presentation – and it looks cool! (see below)

Method 3 – Use a completely different approach

Ask yourself, “do I really need to use a Powerpoint-style format?”. If the answer is “perhaps not!” then check out some of these suggestions:

  • Glogster – we’ve already been through glogs on elearnr. They are a great, visual way to present as you can embed videos, audio and images quickly and easily.
  • Mindmap – why not demonstrate good practice and create a mindmap to present ideas? Students can learn organizational skills from this, and there are a number of collaborative mindmapping sites, including MindMeister, bubbl.us, Mindomo and Mind42.
  • Wiki – a wiki is a collaborative website. It’s also a great place to embed content from other websites and therefore a useful presentational tool. Your audience (i.e. students or other teachers) can also add their ideas and thoughts to it at a later date – if you want them to! I like Wikispaces, but it doesn’t seem to play nicely with our school network. I’d recommend, therefore, Google Sites, Wetpaint and PBwiki. I use Google Sites to run learning.mrbelshaw.co.uk ๐Ÿ™‚

Finally…

Keep up-to-date with new ways and ideas for presenting ideas, concepts and content. The following are websites that can help:

Have YOU got any tips to share about good/bad practice when using Powerpoint?

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