Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Google Moderator



Google Moderator is a great way to have students engaged in the the learning process in the classroom and hold them to a higher level of accountability. Someone on my personal learning network posted a link to the above how-to video video which I am sharing with you. Enlarging the video will help.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Voki Take 2

As a post script to my earlier blog post, I appreciated how @officialvoki, the official Twitter handle of Voki, tweeted my blog and Twitter handle (@RabbiWex). Stephen Covey refers to this as a "win-win" situation!

Voki!

Voki is wonderful! Voki's website tells you they are a "free service that allows you to create personalized speaking avatars and use them on your blog, profile and in email messages." A voki is your own avatar which is more or less a graphic representation in 2d or 3d of you, your alter ego or a character you enjoy. You create the avatar anyway you like it and you can even record your own message (like the message you heard from my Voki when you entered my blog).

Voki can be very beneficial in education for students and educators. Students can use Voki to articulate information they learned in a fun way. For example let's say you want students to reflect on an essay or demonstrate their knowledge of subject materials. Students can create their own Voki and type in or record information they learned, which their Voki will repeat when clicked on. This is especially helpful for students who don't feel as comfortable speaking up in the classroom. Voki gives them a portal to express themselves. Students who like art and are creative will also enjoy Voki.

Educators can have Voki help convey information to their students in a fun way. The educator can record a brief class assignment or homework assignment and load his/her Voki onto the class wiki. Students then go to the wiki and watch the Voki explain the class or homework assignment. Voki's website also has a forum and a lesson plan database for educators. Add this to your digital tool box and the next time your class is reflecting on a blog- think about using Voki as one of the reflection vehicles.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Lion Roars- Apple's Operating System Makes Sense

Although it has only been a little over 24 hours since I downloaded and began using the new Mac OSX Lion operating system, I can already tell a difference my computer use- even though it has been and will be a learning experience. There are 4 or 5 features which people will appreciate very much right from the outset.

It took a few minutes to get used to the new finger swipes, pinches, gestures and etc. but they are helpful and you are even more productive using them. (ironically the only thing that didn't speak to me was the first thing you see on the screen- a picture showing how your screen will now move the same way your two fingers scroll up and down. I actually found it too confusing from how I was used to scrolling so I went into system preferences and changed the scrolling feature back to the previous setting.)

I really like how you can create multiple desktops and swipe (with the three fingers to the right or left) back and forth to toggle or switch desktops. Now I can have a desktop for work, a desktop for play, a desktop for school, etc. Think about it. It just makes sense. You stay so much more organized this way.

With Launchpad you can view all of your apps at once on the screen and you can have multiple pages depending on how many apps you have. Someone tweeted this morning they never realized they had 7 pages or close to 300 apps until they viewed them all in Launchpad!

I also like mission control, a feature which lets you visualize every single application running on your laptop at once. Your computer will run faster when you know what you need open and what you can close. There are literally hundreds of other features and one could elaborate for hours on why this operating system is fabulous but you can follow the above embedded links to see/read for yourself. I know that change is difficult, especially if you have been using the same technology the same way for years- that being said, if you like being productive and using a platform that is intuitive than Apple's new operating system just makes sense.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Animoto

Animoto is really easy to use and is fun. As it says on their website "Create your own Animoto video now! Animoto is fast, free and shockingly easy. Pick a video style, add photos, choose a song. Post it. Send it. Share it." - This is all very true. And their App for the iPhone is simple and user friendly. 


After being out with family the other day I wanted to create a quick video slideshow of the fun we had. In under 2 minutes (literally!) a 30 second video clip with music had been created, uploaded and e-mailed all from the palm of my hand (and an iPhone 4). It looked great too if I might add.

You can take pictures saved on your phone, arrange it in the order you like, add music to go along with your pictures and voila- you've 'animotode!' Check out these sample videos from the Animoto website. Today's technology is truly incredible.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Wordle Works Well

Wordle: http://rabbiwex.blogspot.com




Wordle was created by Jonathan Feinberg, an IBM researcher, who co-authored a paper attributing Wordle's mass popularity to "a cultural system in which viewers are also producers and remixers, and where visualization serves as much as an authoring tool as a method of analysis." In other words people want to roll up their sleeves, dig in and feel a sense of accomplishment. The paper issued 3 sentences on educational uses: "I am a teacher. Wordles help me introduce topics to pupils by allowing them to see what a new topic is about. In academic writing, I use Wordles to check for excessive use of any word or phrase."
I decided to create a wordle of my blog (shown above) and was surprised to see which words were more prominent than others. I started to reflect why certain words would stand out over others and it gave me insight into how I think, process, reflect and write on topics that appeal to me and what I think is important in education. 
Being an educator, I started thinking how Wordles can be applied to the texts I use in the classroom. So I started experimenting with different texts. Below is my first Wordle based on the first chapter of the Book of Beraisheet/Genesis.
Wordle: Beraisheet Chapter1


For those of you who read Hebrew it is interesting to see which words pop out of the screen. (Note that depending on which color schemes one picks will affect which words pop and which don't.) 



Wordle: Beraisheet 1st Chapter

Here is a version where I blended both the original Hebrew text and English translation. Such a powerful way to start a conversation with students on what they are going to delve into. Or students could summarize what they learned by creating a wordle with more significant words or topics having a more pronounced look on the page.  Think about the many applications Wordle can have in the classroom!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Google+

I give props to my sister for her Google+ invite which I gladly accepted. To be honest it is hard to tell if I feel any different after trying it. It almost feels like Google is trying to launch their own blended version of Facebook.  In fact after reading a number of articles, it seems that is exactly what Google+ is attempting (again). Google+ basically offers the following 9 features, the first 6 of which I've included with quotes taken from the Google+ help page:


1- Circles
Circles helps you organize everyone according to your real-life social connections--say, 'family,' 'work friends,' 'music buddies,' and 'alumni'. Then, you can share relevant content with the right people, and follow content posted by people you find interesting. 



2- Stream
The stream is the place to have meaningful conversations with the people you care about. It centralizes all the content people have shared with you, as well as the people who are trying to share with you, but who aren't yet in your circles. You might see text posts, pictures, videos, links, or location markers. When you share with people either individually or through a circle, your content will appear in their stream.

3- The Google+ Bar
The Google+ bar, which appears at the top of Google products, is your connection to Google+ new window. You canshare what’s on your mindview your Google+ notifications, access your profile, or jump to a variety of other Google products. For instance, to get to Google+, all you have to do is click +[your first name].


4- Hangouts

Hangouts are the best way for you to say, “I’m online and want to hangout!” Hangouts lets you:


  • Chill with friends that are scrolling through the web, just like you!
  • Use live video chat that puts you in the same room together!
  • Coordinate plans, whether it's working on a project or meeting up for coffee.
  • Maybe you’re bored. Start a hangout, invite your circles, see who’s around
5- Sparks
Sparks brings you stories on the things you love from all across the Web, so it's easy to strike up meaningful conversations with your friends.

6- +1's
Use the +1 button to publicly show what you like, agree with, or recommend on the web. 

7- Profiles

8- Chats

9- Photos

So of the 9 main features is there anything really earth shattering here? Video chat is nice to have, but I am sticking with Skype. Is Google+ truly a game changer? I think the jury is still out. Although you may feel differently, Facebook and Twitter still seem to be the game changers. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Edmodo Revisited

I have been spending a fair part of my summer creating my on-line learning platforms courtesy of Edmodo. Creating class folders, uploading materials, links, files, etc. I'll admit I was skeptical at the outset because at first glance Edmodo seemed to be more like a Facebook 'wanna-be' than authentic learning platform. I looked at other possibilities like Blackboard for more realistic choices. However the more I am delving into Edmodo the more I am appreciating how much students will benefit from it. I also like the mobile app Edmodo has rolled out. Although it feels raw and a little bumpy in its infant stages, the app makes it so easy for teachers to post assignments and notes to their students. I'm looking forward to see how the app is updated.
As I student I think I might have been extremely appreciative to have my class materials available to me around the clock. That being said the level of accountability has increased as well. Students won't be able to make excuses because all their coursework will be at their fingertips. The proverbial 'dog ate my homework' line has suddenly vanished!

Google Apps

I like Google documents (g-docs). The fact that I no longer need a flash drive or anything to worry about brings me peace of mind. How many times has this happened to you: You come to school prepared with a great lesson plan saved on your 8 gig (512kb?) flash drive. You stayed up for hours creating this one unit and then when it comes time to present your flash drive isn't working and you have to improvise.
The fact of the matter is that travel/flash/memory sticks will be obsolete in no time. Why you ask? Because with the advent of cloud computing coupled with powerful productivity applications like Wunderlist, DropboxEvernote, and beyond a person will almost always be prepared and ready to launch their lessons wherever a computer or smart phone is located- without removing anything from their pockets or around their necks.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

ISTE Video Review

Here is a link to the video I recently viewed of an ISTE session on podcasting and mobile media for teaching and learning. The presentation, led by 3 apple distinguished educators, was centered around the question of 'how does a teacher incorporate all these technology tools into meaningful learning?'

One of the first things I loved was right before they even presented any materials one of the speakers mentioned a 'back channel' on this site. The purpose was for attendees to offer feedback and questions in realtime on the web as the presenter was presenting. It may sound like a 'duh' moment to you but it was an 'aha' moment for me. I immediately set up my own back channel for one of my upcoming classes this fall.

The presentation itself was good. I think it one sense the presenters validated or helped me gauge where I am on the technology continuum. Most of the software or apps they showed I was familiar with (granted the presentation seemed to have an Apple bent to it) yet there were a few things that I was able to think about and realize how powerful and fun it would be to use in the classroom.

My favorite part was a clip they showed of a 2-year-old baby holding an iPad in his lap, and started navigating his iPad by swiping, scrolling, tapping, pressing, etc. It was really amazing to see how second nature it was the way this 2-year-old was navigating. He was painting a picture, inserting animals on the screen, scrolling to a part of an animated video to watch his favorite scene. The message was obvious as to where education is headed (if not there already) but still incredible to watch that baby do all these things on an iPad. One other takeaway was the ISTE 2011 app I had downloaded to my iPhone. Although I could not attend the convention this year the app was useful in networking with presenters and seeing the who's who of ed. tech.

There were some great lines as well like (and I will paraphrase) "everyone talks about 21st century learning and web 2.0, but we are already 11 years into the 21st century. We need to be thinking about web 3.0, what it will comprise and even be thinking of web 4.0" I really appreciated the visionary aspects of that quote and fully agree with the sentiment. I finished the video with lots of education thoughts and ideas bouncing around in my head and next steps questions. Time to share and discuss what I learned with my P.L.N.!