Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Facilitate Online Discussions with Backchannel Tools

There are many Learning Management Systems out there, such as Google Classroom and Seesaw, that allow teachers to post information and questions. In return, students can make comments when prompted by the teacher. While this can be an engaging piece, it still doesn't feel very conversational. This is where using a Backchannel chat can be used facilitate discussions between your students either in the classroom or from a distance.

I know what you may be thinking... "Did he just say chat? As in a chat-room?" Yes chat rooms can have negative connotations with them, but when used correctly in an educational setting, they can be a safe discussion alternative. Two backchannel sites that I am going to suggest allow the teacher to create a virtual room that can only be accessed with a specific link shared by a teacher. This means that you have total control of who has access, keeping your students safe.

Why should I try a backchannel discussion with my students?
First and foremost I am not saying that these discussions should replace verbal discussions you have with your students. Giving students the opportunity to collect their thoughts and speak them verbally is a skill that is different then typing them out on a screen. However, occasionally using a backchannel has an advantage as well. These virtual rooms allow a teacher to save/print the conversations had with students. This gives the teacher a record of student participation within a content conversation, as well as leaves a record of the students understanding.

There are many backchannel sites out there, but two that I have used are TodaysMeet and Chatzy.

TodaysMeet is an easy to set up and use virtual chat room geared for classroom usage. After logging in, which it does allow you to login with Google, you are sent to a simple dashboard to set up as many rooms as you like.

After setting your room up, all you need to do is share the link with your students, and your class is ready to have a discussion. At the end of your discussion, you may save/print the transcript.

Chatzy doesn't advertise itself as an education site quite as much as TodaysMeet, however several of it's safety features make it great to use in your classroom.

You can add a password to the chat along with allowing or blocking several features for users. Chatzy also allows them to embed YouTube Videos or Internet Images if they wish. This could allow for some creative answers. These are features that could be turned on or off.

The beauty in these and other backchannel tools is the simplicity to them. These tools allow the students to focus on the conversation and not get too wrapped up in the bells and whistles that they are used to seeing in social media.

If you have a backchannel that you like to use, please add it to the comments below!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Presentation Tools that Ignite Student Creativity

I am an educator who is constantly in search for tools that promote student creation over student consumption. For years PowerPoint, Prezi, and Google Slides have been the "go to" presentation tools that allow for some student creation in the classroom. At times, many teachers and students look for something different to use, something a little more engaging for their audience.

There are many free online presentation tools out there, but I am going to highlight a couple that your students can use to create with.

Adobe Spark
Example of a Adobe Spark Web Story
Spark offers 3 different presentation types: Social Media Posts, Web Stories (similar to a PowerPoint), and Videos. All three types are simple for students to use. Students can search for media and information without having to leave the application. This allows for a more efficient presentation development time. At the end of the presentation, all of the photos are automatically cited. For students wanting a professional looking product, Adobe Spark is an amazing option.

Buncee Edu

Buncee is a fun and simple tool for students to create engaging presentations. The platform is set up like PowerPoint/Google Slides but caters to kids more creative side. As with Adobe Spark, backgrounds, pictures, animations, stamps, and several other media types can all be searched and found within the app.

Buncee's click, drag, and search options are simple to use for all learners.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Digital Tools for Flipping Your Classroom

This post originally appeared on The FETC: Future of EdTech Insiders Blog

At FETC, I was delighted to attend a session by high school foreign language teacher Rachelle Dene Poth titled, Flipping Classrooms: Trading Spaces and Places Digital Tools and Ideas to Empower Students. During the session Rachelle gave attendees several resources for flipping learning for students.
However, before those digital tools were given, Ms. Poth set the stage for the why she wanted flipped learning for her students. She explained that she had a need to connect students to her classroom resources no matter their location. If a student is absent or forgets a textbook at school, they can still access the content/resources to stay current with the students in class.
Another aspect of Rachelle’s presentation was explaining the importance of putting the students in the driver’s seat. She gave examples of how she has students create their own presentations, quizzes, infographics, and more. Ms. Poth even discussed the benefits of using these student made digital projects as resources for other students to learn from. This made me think of the SAMR model and how transformative learning can be for our students when they have the flexibility to choose a tool that lets them display or explain their thinking. Rachelle’s suggestion for this was to take small steps: “pick a class to try something with, set parameters and have students create their own.”
Rachelle had many wonderful tools to share. As you look over the following list, it is important to remember to start small. Pick one or two that sound interesting, and try them out. It is easy to get overwhelmed with all of the tools out there, so take small steps for success. Ms. Poth’s presentation and handouts will also be linked in this article as well.
Now, on to the tools!
Tes Teach with Blendspace: A building tool that allows teachers to curate content for lesson delivery packages. Websites, powerpoints, Google Docs, YouTube Videos, and more all in one convenient location for your students. All of these resources can inserted right through the Blendspace search bar, or connecting your own accounts. Simple quizzes can also be created. No more multiple tabs from several links, just one clean lesson flow. The lessons can be shared several ways: a classroom in Blendspace, Google Classroom, or any other method of link sharing. Works on all devices.
Today’s Meet: A backchannel tool that allows for written conversations between teachers and students. The beauty of this tool is that it allows for a full transcript to be saved and printed. This helps keep a log of everything that was discussed in the session. An excellent tool for teachers to use during virtual office hours for students.
QuizizzSimilar to Kahoot, quizizz is a fun competitive way for students to take a quiz. In Quizizz, quiz questions are actually on the screen of the device, not just the screen in the front of the room. This allows for a quiz to be a homework assignment as well. As discussed above, having students create a Quizizz themselves based off of the content in your classroom can be a great way where students can be creators not just consumers with their devices.
Nearpod: A lesson delivery system that gives the teacher control of the student’s screen. Think of sharing a Powerpoint file or Google Slide with your students, but being in control of when the slides change on their screen. Nearpod also allows for interactive questioning, where student answers can be anonymously shared with classmates.
Formative: A student response system allows for multiple question types to be asked. Students can answer questions by multiple choice, drawing, short answer, and more.
Educreations & Explain Everything: Two very similar student explanation tools. Just as their titles imply, students create (by hand or typing) and record their voice to explain their thinking. These can be powerful tools for meta-cognition in and out of the classroom.
EdPuzzle: A student response video tool that allows teachers to bring in YouTube or other videos and add questions to them. These questions are added during the video so as the student watches, it will pause and ask the question.
Buncee: A presentation tool with creative interactive elements. Buncee allows you to add animated characters, videos, and voice over to each slide that you are working on. As with Educreations/Explain Everything, a child can use the voice over to explain the content that they place on each slide.
There were other resources shared by Ms. Poth at the workshop and below you will find the links for them. She is also on twitter, and is well worth the follow! @rdene915