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Friday, July 18, 2014

Now Your Students Can Join Your Wikispaces Wikis Through Class Codes

Wikispaces has released a new feature that I think will be a hit with a lot of teachers. You can now have your students join a wiki by entering a Wikispaces "join code." You can create a join code by clicking on "members" in the admin view of your wiki. After clicking "members" you can select "create join code."

Give your students the join code for a wiki and they can use it to join your wiki without the need for you to approve memberships. To be clear, students will still need to have Wikispaces accounts in order to participate in your wiki.

The join codes that you create for your Wikispaces wikis are valid for one week. After one week you will have to generate a new code. You can also disable codes early if all of your students join before the week is up.

Click here for a complete set of directions, with screenshots, for creating Wikispaces join codes.
Image credit: Wikispaces

Flashcard Monkey - Cartoons for SAT Vocabulary Words

Flashcard Monkey is a fun little site on which students can review SAT vocabulary words. The flashcards feature simple cartoons that illustrate the meaning of the words on the flashcards. Flashcard Monkey currently offers cartoons for 507 SAT words.

Applications for Education
Flashcard Monkey is a nice little review tool for students preparing for the SAT. The model of Flashcard Monkey could easily be applied to any other set of vocabulary words. Your students could make their own cartoons to depict the meaning of the vocabulary words they're trying to learn.

B-Roll, Photo Collages, and Writing and Math Prompts

A stray cat in my neighborhood.
I named him Geoffrey. 
One of the strategies that I frequently recommend to teachers as a way to help students avoid any copyright issues in their work is to use media from a classroom b-roll gallery. You can build this gallery by having students contribute pictures to a shared Google Drive, Box, or Dropbox folder. Students can add pictures from their mobile devices or contribute public domain images that they have found online.

Besides being a good place to find images to use in multimedia projects, having a b-roll gallery of images could be a good source of writing prompts. Students who struggle to get started on a descriptive writing assignment could benefit from looking through a gallery of interesting images. For example, the picture in this post inspired me to create a very short story about a lost cat.

Students who struggle to get started on a descriptive writing assignment could benefit from first creating a photo collage about the event or concept that they need to write about. In thinking about the images that they select, they're also thinking about what they will say about each image. PicCollage and PicMonkey are two good options for creating photo collages.

Earlier this year I wrote about the Math Photo A Day project. That project is over, but you could create your own Math Photo A Day project in your school. The project asks students to take photographs of things representing various topics and concepts in elementary school level mathematics. For example, a challenge that you could give to students is to take pictures of objects that have specific shapes in them. This could be a homework assignment that students do with their parents or you could make it a classroom assignment.

Another approach to the Math Photo A Day project is to take pictures of examples of bad math in the real world. Use those photos as the prompt for simple mathematics lessons. Read more about this idea in Fun With Bad Math In Pictures.

Three Ideas for Using Plickers In the Classroom - Results of My First Trial

Earlier this week at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp I was able to use Plickers with a group for the first time. Plickers is a neat student response system that uses a teacher's iPad or Android tablet in conjunction with a series of QR codes to create a student response system. Students are given a set of QR codes on large index cards. The codes are assigned to students. Each code card can be turned in four orientations. Each orientation provides a different answer. When the teacher is ready to collect data, he or she uses the Plickers mobile app to scan the cards to see a bar graph of responses.

iOS app vs. Android app:
I tried the Android and the iOS version of the Plickers mobile app. The iOS version worked much better than the Android version. Compared to the Android version, the iOS app did a better job of recognizing the codes that the audience held up. I was able to capture half of the room with one swoop with the iOS app. The Android app required a lot of focusing on individual codes. To be fair, the results may be different if you use another Android device. I was using my Samsung Galaxy S4.

Demo classes vs. saved classes:
You can use Plickers with a demo class. The demo class is the perfect option when you don't need to track responses back to individuals. The demo class is great for completely anonymous polling of your audience. I used the demo class for questions about whether or not we were ready to move on to the next part of the agenda and whether or not we were ready for a break.

The saved class option in Plickers is what you would use if you want to track your students' responses. To use the saved class option you need to enter your students' names and assign a Plickers to each of them. The polling that you do is still anonymous from the students' perspectives, but you can see how each student responded to your prompts.

Three Ideas for Using Plickers In the Classroom
1. Quickly taking the pulse of the class. Ask your students, "do you get this?" (or a similar question) and have them hold up their cards to indicate yes or no. You can do this with a saved class or a demo class in the app.

2. Hosting a review game. Create a series of questions in your saved Plickers class. To conduct the review have students hold up their cards to respond to each question. Every student gets to respond at the same time and you get to see how each student responded. This is an advantage over many review games in which only the first student to respond has his or her voice heard.

3. Take attendance. In a saved Plickers class each student has a card assigned to him or her. At the start of class just have them hold up their cards to check-in.

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