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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Four Ways to Create Digital Records of Physical Items Your Students Create

A couple of days ago I received an email from a reader who was looking for a good app to use to create digital portfolios of students' physical works like paintings, sculptures, or handwritten work. I had just reviewed Seesaw so that was my first recommendation. There are other good tools for creating digital portfolios of students' physical works.

Skitch is a free app for iPad, Android, Mac OS, and Windows. With Skitch installed on your mobile device you can snap a picture of a students' work and save it to a folder in your Evernote account. If you need to, you can draw on the picture and type on the picture. Drawing and typing on the picture of a students' work could be a good way to make notes for yourself and or the student.

Three Ring is a free service offering free Android and iPhone apps for digitizing and organizing student work. Using the app you can take a picture of a student's work and upload it to a free Three Ring account. Once a picture is uploaded to your Three Ring account you can add notes to it. You can organize artifacts by student name, class, date, or just about any other tagging system that works for you. You can share with parents and students your notes about the artifacts you've digitized through Three Ring.

Seesaw is a free iPad app through which students can create a portfolio to document the things they have learned. Students can add artifacts to their portfolios by taking pictures of their work (in the case of a worksheet or other physical item), by writing about what they've learned, or by shooting a short video to record something they have learned. Students can add voice comments to their pictures to clarify what their pictures document. To get started with Seesaw create a free classroom account. Students join the classroom by scanning a QR code (you will have to print it or project it) that grants them access to your Seesaw classroom. As the teacher you can see and sort all of your students' Seesaw submissions. Seesaw allows parents to create accounts through which they can see the work of their children. As a teacher you can send notifications to parents when their children make a new Seesaw submission.

WeLearnedIt is an iPad app and online service through which you and your students can build digital portfolios. Through the WeLearnedIt iPad app you and your students can create digital portfolios that contain files from Google Drive, Dropbox, links from the web, images and videos captured with your iPad, and whiteboard videos created within the WeLearnedIt app. You can mark-up and annotate pictures within the app. The best aspects of WeLearnedIt are found in the feedback and sharing tools. Teachers can assign grades to elements of students’ digital portfolios. Grading is not limited to assigning scores. Teachers can give written feedback on each submission. Rubrics for assignments are available through the app too.

Disclosure: I have a small advisory and equity interest in eduClipper which developed WeLearnedIt.

CommonLit - Thematic Discussion Questions Paired With Interesting Texts

The other day I received an email from Michelle Brown at Harvard University. Her email was about a new organization called Commonlit. Commonlit is an organization that is building sets of thematic discussion questions to use in conjunction with upper elementary school and middle school students.

Here's how Commonlit works. As a teacher I select a theme such as love, social change & revolution, or friendship & loyalty. Then within my chosen theme I select a discussion question. The choice of a discussion question will lead me to a set of passages for my students to read to support classroom discussion. For example, when I selected the question, "what drives a person to betray?" in the friendship & loyalty theme I was then able to choose the text of The Donkey, the Fox, and the Lion from Aesop's Fables. Commonlit provided me with a PDF of the text to download for free.

Applications for Education
Commonlit's thematic questions could be quite helpful in getting students interested in reading. I've always found that if I can get students engrossed in a conversation around a big question, I then have a much easier time getting them to read materials related to the conversation. My students tend to want to read so that they can find more ideas to bring into their arguments in the classroom conversation.

Twine - An Open-source Program for Writing Choose Your Own Adventure Stories

On Friday evening at TeachMeet BETT I saw Alan O'Donohue demonstrate a new-to-me writing tool called Twine. Twine is an open-source program for writing choose your own adventure stories. You can use Twine online or you can download the software for Mac or Windows. I used Twine online to create a short story.

To write a choose your own adventure story with Twine online start by giving your story a title. After titling your story you will be taken to a grid canvas on which you can write short passages in a series of sticky notes. Each sticky note should be given its own title. To link elements of your stories you place brackets around the title of note within a note. Each note can be linked to two or more other notes in your story. When your story is complete you can read through it and click through it in your browser.
click image to view full size

If you use Twine online there are a couple of things you should know before you start. First, there is not a log-in or registration option. Your work is saved in your browser. To save your work permanently, click the archive icon to download a Twine file. Your Twine file can be opened later in your web browser where you can edit it further or simply read through your story. Second, to share Twine stories you will have to email the file to the person you want to read your story.
The beginning of my Twine story. (click image to view full size)

Applications for Education
Writing choose your own adventure stories in Twine could be a great way to get kids interested in creative writing. Building a good choose your own adventure story requires a lot of planning around possible story turns and endings. The visual nature of Twine's sticky note interface could help students see how parts of a story work together.