Category Archives: Technology Integration

A New Way to Look At Presentations

ISTE10 and the Twitter feeds this summer were buzzing about Prezi, an online presentation tool. Educators suggested that the way we view students presentations would change based on Prezi. So I decided to check it out. I used Prezi to create an introduction to ELA display.

The learning curve was a bit high for me because I am spatially challenged. I had trouble visualizing what I wanted so I tried to keep it simple. Adding images and even a movie were fairly easy. The movie needed to be in flash format so I had to convert the original movie file. Prezi provides two short tutorials to using this tool but to be really effective I need more.

Here are some further resources.

Basic Prezi Tutorial

The Power and Point of Using Prezi

Using Prezi as a Presentation Tool

A benefit to Prezi is like Google Docs, it in online and therefore available on any networked computer. It does require an account but Prezi offers education licensing with most features for free. Your email is your account log in and must be from an educational institution to qualify.

As always the question is, “why use this over other programs like Google Docs?” Perhaps it is its nonlinear quality that allows students to freely integrate what they have learned. I am still thinking….

In the Beginning

I am not sure what happens over the summer but I always forget that the new students in August are not as proficient as the previous year’s May group. This leads to impatience and frustration on both sides.

I was able to get all of my classes on Google Docs last week. After allowing two classes to sign up  themselves, I personally set up the third class, a process that took about two hours. Why? It seems it took almost that long to undo all of the mistakes of the first two classes. Middle school students do not realize that typing anything incorrect leads to problems. The most prevalent one was inputting the wrong email address, thereby never receiving an email to verify the account. The second problem, teachers who allow students to make up their own password. After the summer break, no one remembered them. As students (and teachers) become more comfortable with using this technology perhaps some of these problems will resolve themselves. In the mean time, I need to take three deep cleansing breaths and move on. The results are worth it. I have received two assignments this evening. They are graded and entered into my grade book. The convenience of it all equals the time spent.

I tried a new tool today. It is a virtual whiteboard sponsored by a French company, Edoboard. Over all I was pleased but it took some work to get to that point. Edoboard requires Flash Player and it seems that all of but one of my eMacs did not have the version required. So lunch was spent installing the plugin. I had to invite my students to participate. In each class, one invitation had an error and I had to re-invite. Students filled out log in information, verified and entered the classroom. The assignment was to compare Ponyboy and Soda, characters from “The Outsiders.” In my first block I allowed all of the students to input information at the same time. This involved some problem solving to share space and information. I wasn’t sure if that approach was successful so in the second block, I took volunteers of two and three students. The students experienced no space problems but some students opted to not volunteer. While the first block was chaotic, there were some very good observations. The second block was more controlled but the product was mediocre. I am going to have to reflect on how to best use Edoboard in the future.

I love how technology can make tasks easier, more productive, and motivating but to get to that end requires some set up time, patience, and time to allow the students to get used to learning in this way.

Word Magnets

I have been teaching in a computer lab for the last seven years and threw most of my “make and take” type stuff away. Recently I wished I still had those strips of words that could be manipulated around on a magnet board. I wanted students to rearrange words in a sentence to better understand the parts of speech. I even bought some magnet tape and  foam letters.

About that time Candace Shively, in her weekly update at TeachersFirst, reviewed “Word Magnets.” I quickly accessed the site and was amazed with how easy they were to use and exactly what I needed. The bag of craft supplies will remain in the closet.

Word Magnets is just that; an electronic version of the magnets that kids play with on the refrigerator. For my initial foray into using them, I had the students create sentences with various types of dependent clauses. They immediately got to work and came up with very good examples of whatever I asked. The ease of use (vs boring paper and pencil) seem to motivate. I could quickly monitor as I walked around and drag, remove or insert to make corrections.

Some problems did occur. Occasionally a computer froze up. Later in the day many more did. Refreshing the site corrected the problem but the student was dismayed if a large amount of work was deleted. We found that on Macs that Firefox worked better than Safari. Initially I had the students write each word of the sentence as a single magnet but later found that clauses worked better with coordinating conjunctions being separate magnets. You might want to think about your lesson and then decide what set up works best.

I guess I get excited about the simplest things but I believe that technology’s first benefit is “better and faster” and that is what Word Magnets does. I look forward to better ways to use this tool.

Flip Video Cameras

I first saw the Flip Video Camera on Oprah and thought what an amazing gift for the husband. He quickly upgraded to an HD version and I inherited the original. I began to think about how I could use this in the classroom????

First things first, I really don’t want the students using my camera so what can I do for them. At $150 I can’t buy them for the classroom so I purchased  two Jazz Cams instead (about $35.00). Not nearly as good as a Flip but doable.

I have made “YouTube” type videos of skits, sketches and other visually-based activities. The students really enjoy the immediacy of seeing themselves and being able to critique the work. What about student use? So far I have had the students create videos that help to learn a particular standard. For example, a group of students filmed an ad that “sold” the importance of setting as a literary elements. Motivating – you bet BUT how to get the students to focus on content and less on the filming and editing? I don’t know.

I thought by watching me quickly film and then upload the presentation that it would set an example. Unfortunately not; the camera itself becomes the center of learning rather than what is being filmed. Could the answer lie in multiple experiences? When the novelty of it all wears off, then will time and efforts be spent on the standard?? Only time will tell I suppose.