Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Instructure Canvas a Free LMS for Teachers

Instructure Canvas is a free learning management system that teachers can use to record grades, post assignments, and interact with their students. Students can use Instructure Canvas to communicate with each other and collaborate on assignments. What caught my attention about Instructure Canvas is that it integrates Facebooks, Google Docs, and email systems outside of Instructure. Another neat feature of Instructure Canvas is that students can subscribe to RSS, email, and cell phone alerts to stay abreast of any new content their teachers post.

The video below provides an overview of Instructure Canvas. (The volume is low in the recording, so you should turn your computer's volume up to hear the narration).

Applications for Education
It should be noted that individual teacher accounts for Instructure Canvas are free but a school-wide deployment may require the purchase of a hosting package. If you're a teacher in a small school that doesn't have a school-wide LMS, Instructure Canvas could be a good system for keeping your students informed of grades and assignments.

Slide Six - Easily Add Narration to Slide Shows

Slide Six is a slide show hosting service that offers you the ability to add your voice narrations without having to create, upload, and sync a separate audio file. Slide Six does this by allowing you to record your narration directly through the Slide Six site. To use the feature just upload your slide show and then record your voice as you go through your slide deck. Slide Six also allows you to upload attachments to complement your presentations. YouTube and Vimeo videos are supported within Slide Six.

Slide Six supports all Power Point formats, Open Office, PDF, and MOV presentations. You can try Slide Six without creating an account through the trial uploader.

Applications for Education
If you have students creating slide shows that are going to end up in a wiki or on a blog consider having them add audio narration to their presentations before embedding them into a blog or wiki.

There is one last noteworthy aspect of Slide Six for teachers that has nothing to do with the technology of Slide Six, but everything to do with the owner and creator Todd Sharp.
Slide Six is a boot-strapped start-up and Todd is very responsive to customer questions. Follow him on Twitter and tell him I sent you.

Buzz Dash - Create Polls, Get Instant Feedback

Buzz Dash is a free polling service that allows anyone to create a poll to use on any blog or website. There are a lot of survey and polling widgets that you can use on your blog (in fact, Blogger has one built-in), but what I like about Buzz Dash is that your poll results instantly update whenever someone votes. The update happens without the need to refresh your page in order to see the new poll results. Try it out with my Buzz Dash poll embedded below.

<a href="">When do you start thinking about the new school year?</a> | <a href="">BuzzDash polls</a>

Applications for Education
Polls and surveys can provide teachers with very useful real-time information about their students. I often use polls in the week prior to an assessment to get a sense of how my students are feeling about their knowledge of a particular topic or concept. I then use that information to help me determine if I need to reteach a lesson.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
Obsurvey - Create Custom Surveys
Quizlet - Create and Share Flashcards
Zoho Challenge - Conduct Tests Online