Trying out Thinglink

This week for class we were able to blog about anything! Like Megan, I chose to explore a new app that might be useful in my classroom. I had heard about Thinglink and wanted to try it out.

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What is Thinglink, you might ask? It is an interactive media platform that allows you or students to use multimedia content and links to share their knowledge. and tell their story by tagging images or videos with hotspots that include additional information. Students are able to add information or link to other websites, pictures, maps, videos, audio clips, or polls using tags on an image they uploaded themselves or got from the web. They can also link to their own google doc or presentation.

Signing up was easy and there is a free version. It doesn’t have all the options of the upgraded but I think it has enough to be useful in the classroom.

I found a great example that includes many of the features Thinglink has to offer. This interactive infographic by Local 10 News Miami reports on the death of baseball player José Fernández

“Readers can smoothly unlock various tags that include the pictures of the mass card, radio clips from the procession, Google map location of the funeral, and a plethora of articles and images honoring the life of José.”

Completed projects can be shared via social media, a link, or embedded into blogs or websites.

I thought this app would be a great way for student to show their learning. This website shows many ways to use Thinglink. Check out the site to get more information on any of the ideas I’ve listed below, or see some more!

Use Thinglink to:

  • Communicate with parents
  • Student portfolios
  • Interactive bulletin board
  • Add sound effects or oral explanations to images
  • Interactive book talk or photo collage
  • Multimedia definitions
  • Interactive report

Apparently you can even sign up for a teacher account where you can add students –> Thinglink Classroom. I didn’t explore this option but here is a presentation that explains the process. There is also a tutorial on this within the app along with some other tutorials.

You are also able to Explore other Thinglinks for ideas or to use in your classroom. I thought this one would be a great project for biology.

As great as this all sounds, when I tried to create my own Thinglink, I didn’t have much luck. I was able to upload my background image, but beyond that, nothing much would work. Somehow I was able to add one tag and that’s it. I was really disappointed. I emailed for help so I’ll see if they get back to me.

I was excited for the possibilities I saw in this app and how I could use this in my classroom. Hopefully I can figure out what I’m doing wrong.

I’d love to hear how you are using Thinglink in your classroom and if you had any problems you were able to overcome.

Text, Audio, or Video…How Do You Learn Best?

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This week my post is a response reflection to A.W. Bates’ Teaching In A Digital Age. In chapter 7 Bates discusses different types of digital sources and their impact on teaching and learning. Of all the digital sources, I believe that I, like my classmate Ashley, learn best by text. However, this could be because text has primarily been the only option for my learning. We were shown a video once in a blue moon in school, but most of my learning occurred through reading. I did well in school so I guess this worked for me. Some of the unique presentational characteristics of text are:

  • text is very good at handling abstraction and generalisation;
  • text enables the linear sequencing of information in a structured way;
  • text has a linear structure which works well in the development of a sequential argument or discussion;
  • still graphics such as graphs or diagrams enable knowledge to be presented differently from written language, either providing concrete examples of abstractions or offering a different way of representing the same knowledge.
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Text also meets all the criteria as a medium for academic learning. I can attest to that; while taking a master’s degree you read a lot of books, journals, and articles. A LOT! There is good reason for using text as it is “particularly useful for developing the higher learning outcomes required at an academic level, such as analysis, critical thinking, and evaluation” (Bates, 2015, 7.2.1.2).

Bates also makes the point that although text is great, it comes with limitations. It requires a high level of literacy skills for it to be used effectively in teaching and learning. This is where I run into problems at the school I teach at. Many of my students have huge gaps, especially in their reading levels. I agree with Bates when he says,

“Print has been a dominant teaching technology, arguably at least as influential as the spoken word of the teacher. Even today, textbooks, mainly in printed format, but increasingly also in digital format, still play a major role in formal education, training and distance education” (Bates, 2015, 7.2.1).

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So how can I reach the students that text doesn’t work for, in teaching them and in them being able to show their learning at high school level? I certainly try many different approaches, but I’d love to hear your ideas as well.

 

Bates refers to audio as the unappreciated medium. I would say I have to agree in that I don’t really appreciate it and don’t think it is that great, for me anyway. What a teacher adds by talking/teaching in a class is highly valuable, but Bates is mainly referring to recorded audio. I don’t have a lot of experience with just recorded audio and perhaps that is why it isn’t high on my digital source list for learning. I don’t listen to podcasts or audiobooks. I will admit, I haven’t really given them a chance, but I think my problem is that I zone out. Unless I am following allow with text, my mind begins to wander. I believe this is useful in the classroom as it can help develop literacy skills or support those students with lower literacy levels.

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Video is a digital source I believe can add a lot to a lesson and allow students to deepen their understanding of a topic or concept. Sometimes when you are able to see something you’ve been reading about or watch a technique in action, it just makes so much more sense. I think that keeping videos on the shorter is side is better or interest can be lost. Videos can be frustrating or some if you’re trying to pick out certain pieces of information or rewatching looking for one particular part. Text can be easier to skim over and find what you’re looking for in these instances.

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I think I need to incorporate more videos into my lessons. I get frustrated when it can take such a long time to search for one great video and then sometimes I end up not finding anything. I wonder if it was worth it or the best use of my time. I agree with Bates when he says that “students often reject videos that require them to do analysis or interpretation; they often prefer direct instruction that focuses primarily on comprehension.” This is not an excuse to not use video, we must teach students to use video differently.

Bates argues that video isn’t being used enough in education and when it is, it isn’t “exploiting the unique characteristics of video” (Bates, 2015, 7.4.4). I would love an example of how video should be used to in order for students to capitalize on its full effect.

My primary teaching area is high school math. How I was taught, and thus how I’ve been teaching for the most part, has had students communicate their learning in text (mostly via mathematical symbols). However, this class, other master’s classes, and some of my fellow colleagues have inspired me to look for other ways my students could show their learning. From what I have thought about so far, text would still be involved, but it would stray from the traditional test/worksheet assessments. Bates makes the case that we should be giving more attention to developing multimedia literacy skills in this digital age. He’s right, and that is also part of my inspiration for finding these alternate assessments. I would love to hear about ways you assess your students learning that vary from the traditional. Leave a comment below!  

Creating With SMART Recorder

For class this week we are supposed to pick a creation tool that we are unfamiliar with. I use my SMART Board in class a lot but I had never used the recording option on it. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to figure it out. Some of my students in one of my classes were finished their work so I asked if they’d like to help me out. After a couple of failed attempts trying to use the screen capture option to record, we googled how to record! This short video got us set up.

We played with it a little bit and found that we couldn’t hear anything just using the mic on my computer. The kids told me I would need a to buy a microphone. Luckily I remembered I had a wireless headset with a mic in my desk that I had used a couple years ago for getting students to record themselves on PPT. However, it needed to be charged so we couldn’t test it out right away. The students told me I might have to record my video with no sound, then record my voice, and then lay them over each other. This sounded like more than my weak technical skills could handle, but they assured me that with a program like Windows Media Player or WeVideo it wouldn’t be that difficult. I think they really enjoyed being the experts and getting to teach me!

Fortunately, the sound using the microphone I had turned out pretty good. Here is my review of SMART Recorder.

I also think SMART Recorder would be a useful tool to record short how-to videos for using technology. Clearly, some students don’t need a tutorial, but some do. As I try to incorporate more technology into my classroom and give my students the option of using technology for assessments, I think SMART Recorder would provide me an great option for making tutorials. That way I don’t need to spend class time teaching how to use a tool only a few may use to show their learning. It could be a valuable tool to help my students develop the key skills needed in a digital age.  

Leave a comment below letting me know how you use SMART Recorder in your classroom or if you’ve tried a different creation tool you think is better.

For some other creation tool reviews, check out the some of my classmate’s blogs. Roxanne reviewed GoAnimate, Chalyn discussed Adobe Spark, and Graham checked out Screencastify.

Google Classroom…Yay or Ney?

Google Classroom is the LMS platform my group and I are thinking we are going to use for our project. When asked to review a platform this week for our blog post, I naturally chose it. After sitting down with my coworker who uses Classroom, and having her show me how she uses it, I was really excited about it. That was until I read Audrey Watter’s piece Beyond the LMS. I agree with her in that these LMS systems will be what others think education technology is. Google Classroom won’t revolutionize my classroom or make me a better teacher. It is a closed system, but for me, it is a start, and a reminder to keep pulling in those outside resources that will add to my lessons and provide my students with multiple ways to gain new understandings. From here, I can see myself moving toward student blogs and sharing and recreating in the world wide web.

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Classroom also provides an opportunity for me to add a different type of organization to my to my life and the lives of my students. Thanks to my smartphone, I don’t remember anything (perhaps Socrates was onto something)! Students, I feel are the same way. This system offers them a way to rewatch that YouTube or PPT that they may need for clarification or to deepen their understanding. Having that opportunity and a place where much of the important information for a course is posted without having to haul a textbook or binder around with them, could be helpful for many students. Below I have outlined what I learned about Google Classroom this week. All the stuff I learned seems pretty great!

Our school division is allows us access to Google Classroom and have made it easy for our students to use Google Docs. All the students have logins and there is no lost work or worry that they didn’t save their documents properly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a student lose all their work and have to start again, or just give up out of pure frustration. That is why I love that Google Classroom allows one to effortlessly transition between using it and Google docs, slides, or whatever else one can create in their drive. The drive integration is AMAZING!

It is definitely easy to get started using Classroom. You simple click on the + sign and select ‘Create class.’ Once you’ve named your class you can add assignments, announcements, a poll, questions, etc. You can organize your stream (assignments, etc.) by putting them into different units/topics to make it easy for students to find things. This also eliminates a ‘scroll of doom’ if everything is left uncategorized. The endless scroll can also be limited by the ability to bump assignments to the top.

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When teachers are posting assignments they have the option to supply one assignment to every student, or have students view or edit the same material. If you’ve given every student their own copy, you can view what everyone is doing in real time. I like this option a lot so I can keep my students on track. I can also make comments on their assignments while they are working on them. When students are finished, they simply click ‘Turn in’ and they’ve handed in their work. As a teacher, I can see how many assignments have been turned in and how many I’m still waiting for. Teachers can add due dates to their assignments as well. If students haven’t turned their work in by the due date, it tells them it’s late.

When adding assignments, teachers have the option of attaching files from their drive, an outside document, linking to a website, or adding a youtube video. You can even search for your video within the program. Teachers can also save a draft of a post they’ve been working on and schedule when they want it to be viewed by students.

Using the calendar option students can see all upcoming and past due dates. Teachers also have this option. Teachers can get a summary of who’s done what assignments in all their classes. Students are able to view a complete list of assignments. It even categorizes them into  done and to do, and lists the ones with no due dates.

“Google Classroom seems pretty user friendly and has a lot of options I love.”

My coworker is using announcements to make discussion boards. Students could comment on what she’d posted and on other classmates’ comments. You can control students’ messages

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and comments in the class stream by setting permissions for individual students or for the whole class. You can also see any comments and messages that a student made and then deleted. This system was working for her, however, I found this site that allows you to create a discussion board using Google Sheets.

When you are done teaching a class you are able to archive it so it clears off your home screen that shows all your classes. As with other Google Drive things, more than one person can edit a classroom at a time if it’s been shared with them. This is great for teachers that team teach. Classroom also makes it easy to navigate between classes if you have more than one.

One of my questions would be, if you’ve created and archived a class, can you reuse when it when you teach that class again? Is it a lot of work to set it up again? Do you need to delete things you don’t want to show right away?

My classmate, Roxanne, had this video on her blog and I thought it would be a great addition to my post.

Google Classrooms seems pretty user friendly and has a lot of options I love. I don’t have a lot (or any) experience with LMS platforms, but this is definitely one I will start using.

Blending Social Justice

How can I use online or blended learning as a teacher? How could either of these options enhance the learning experience of my students. How can I change my pedagogy to use technology to change and enhance student learning? Diana Oblinger and Brian Hawkins argue that if teachers implement technology to enhance a presentation, but everything else about the lesson remains the same, the learning will not change.

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All of these questions are floating around in my head while trying to plan a blended learning opportunity. My groups members (Benita Struik and Megan Weisbrod) and I began by trying to come up with an idea of a class we could use for this blended learning assignment. We all teach different subjects and different ages of students so we needed something that would be useful for everyone. What we came up with is not a class from the Saskatchewan Curriculum but more of a resource package on social justice using the blended learning model that could be accessed across grades and subject areas.

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I’m not entirely sure how this will look yet. Any suggestions and/or feedback is welcome. We thought we would offer three modules:

  1. What is Social Justice?
  2. Types of Social Justice – Global Issues
  3. Get Involved – Local Issues – What can you do?

Although our plan is for these modules to be used by anyone, we will be planning with our students in mind. We all teach at risk, disengaged students, from lower income families.

So far, we are thinking of using Google Classroom as our platform. I have never used any blended learning platform at all so I would like to do a little more research to see if it is the best one for our needs.

The module I am going to plan is ‘What is Social Justice.’ I have ideas on how to I would teach this in a face-to-face model, and even how I could use technology to improve engagement, but I’m having trouble imagining how I will my implement the instruction part with a video or podcast, and how this would further engage or increase learning. Any ideas and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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Another kick at the can…

Here I am beginning another education technology class with Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt. After I finished  EC&I 831 I stopped blogging and never gave it another thought. That class almost killed me. In hindsight perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to take a class with a 3 week old baby and a 22 month old toddler. I see many of my classmates have babies and I wish you good luck. Everything technology was new to me in that first class. I had never used Twitter, or WordPress, or even remotely thought about having a blog. Although I learned a tremendous amount in that class, there is so much more I need to learn and remember. A couple of goals I have for this class are:

  1. Gain a better sense of how to build an online or blended course and how to use it to effectively with students. One of my colleagues has started using Google Classroom. I can see some of the potential benefits, but I also wonder how well it will work with our limited access to computers.
  2. I want to continue to build my professional learning network through this course and Twitter. I also abandoned Twitter when 831 ended. I definitely saw the benefits of it and the opportunity for professional growth. I’m hoping now that I am back at work and I’m able to put some of the things I read about into practice I’ll be able to stick with it. Check me out on Twitter @jannaebridgeman
  3. My final goal is to finish my master’s! This is my tenth and final class. As excited as I am to start this class, I am even more excited to finish it, and finally have a M. Ed degree. Now this will be no easy feat; starting back to work at Scott Collegiate after maternity leave, planning and teaching all new classes, taking this master’s class, and adjusting to working life with two small children will definitely be a huge challenge. I CAN DO IT. I need to keep reminding myself of that!

I have learned so much on my journey towards a master’s degree, but I am looking forward to the extra time I will have when it is over.
What will I do with all that time you might ask? I’ll probably spend the majority of it watching TV! I’ve missed so many shows. Jokes aside, I am looking forward to spending that time with my wonderful family. My

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husband and two little girls have had to make sacrifices for me to be on this journey and I am so appreciative.

Crochet and Connections to the Classroom

On the first day of class we were told that 30% of our mark would be made up by a learning project. We could pick anything we wanted to learn and we needed to document our progress. We could pick anything we wanted, anything! The possibilities are endless, except, I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to learn. We are so very rarely asked this question in an educational context. Looking back at the last decade or so of my life, I don’t know if I’ve learned anything that wasn’t out of necessity for my job, school, being a homeowner, or becoming a parent. I know that when I’ve tried something similar in my classroom, students also have trouble choosing. I think that I would give them lots of advance notice for thinking time, provide examples, and do interest inventories to help them pick something.

When I picked learning to crochet I didn’t really make a plan for how I would do that or what I wanted to accomplish, or at least I didn’t write one down on paper. I wouldn’t let a student get away with that! I would make sure they had a plan and goals to be met so they could track their progress. I found it difficult to do this because I had no idea about anything crochet. How could I make a plan when I didn’t have the first clue. Well, that would be step 1 I guess – research. Once I had done some research I did come up plan and I had an end goal in mind. I was hesitant to write it down though. What if I changed the plan, or worse, what if I didn’t accomplish that end goal I had in mind. Would I feel like a failure, would others view me as a failure. This is a bit ridiculous as plans change and goals need to be re-evaluated as more information is gained. I can see students sharing these same feelings though. It would be important to make sure they understood that things may need to change and as long as they are learning, they are not failures. At the end of this class I wanted to make a scarf. Although I did not accomplish this goal, I do have the skills necessary to do it.

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As I was learning new stitches (I never knew there were so many!) I found it helpful to use those stitches to make a product. This way I practiced the new stitch and had something to show for it in the end. I would encourage students to do this as well, if it was possible. I found it motivating and had those feelings of accomplishment which made me want to learn more. It also made my learning seem more worthwhile. This is important as there were many times I was super frustrated and wanted to quit. Seeing my previously completed projects helped me work through my frustration and keep going. I was also able to see my progress and that I was improving.

Reading directions about something doesn’t always translate to performing those directions perfectly. I found patterns especially difficult to read and follow even when I understood what everything in the pattern meant. When I thought I’d mastered a stitch I would still make mistakes. I definitely haven’t got to the point where I can mindlessly crochet something. Even with paying close attention and talking myself through every step, I continued to make mistakes.  Making mistakes is part of the learning process! This translates to my teaching in two ways. In teaching math problems I need to remember that just because a student has done a problem once doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve got it down pat. Sometimes I get frustrated when students say they don’t know what to do; I’m thinking, you just follow the same steps we just did. It’s okay to make mistakes, it’s going to happen. When this happened to me I needed to go back to the part where I knew I’d done it right and start/try again. I often re-watched YouTubes and worked through it step by step.

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Photo Credit: WellDunn

Learning can be repetitive. Crocheting is a bit repetitive, as is math. It didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, but it was a lot of the same over and over again. You need to learn the basic skills and then build on them.

I found watching videos extremely helpful for learning, but reading written directions and looking at pictures was beneficial at times. It just goes to show we all learn a little bit differently and you may not be able to rely solely on one method. Watching more than one video on the same concept can be a good thing, but it can also be confusing. Different people explain or do things slightly differently. This can a positive. It can fill in gaps and you may find that person that explains it in just the right way for you. I found that sometimes when I would watch another video I would start second guessing myself about the skill or stitch I thought I had, other times it was effective. I different camera angle or set of instructions would solidify my thinking.

A personal learning network is a must for learning new skills especially when you don’t have that ‘expert’ teacher in the room with you. Other people hold a vast amount of knowledge that you can tap into. Even if you do have a teacher, they don’t know everything (I can say this because I am one)! There is much to be learnt from others and many ways of finding that knowledge. The community where we live and online community holds an abundance of knowledge and offers diverse perspectives.

Although learning to crochet had its ups and downs, I thoroughly enjoyed the process. It gave me the opportunity to learn something I had always wanted to do, but thought I never had the time or resources to do. I will definitely try to work an open curriculum, learn anything you want component into my classes.

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Photo Credit: thelavenderchair.com