Wednesday, May 12, 2010

HootCourse - A Classroom Application for Twitter

Last week Beth Still recommended to me that I check out HootCourse. Beth teaches online courses for high school students so I knew that if she liked it, I had to give it a serious look. HootCourse uses Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, WordPress, Posterous, and Xanga to create a conversation channel for your courses.

At its most basic HootCourse is a platform on which you can create a conversation channel which HootCourse calls "courses". Your students can post comments and questions in the course you create. If your students have Twitter or Facebook accounts they can login using those accounts to post messages. Students can also post messages in Twitter, use the hashtag you assign to your course, and then HootCourse will pull all of their Tweets into your course. If students need to write more than 140 characters they have their posts on Blogger, WordPress, Posterous, or Xanga appear in your HootCourse course.

Update: apparently if you login into HootCourse using your Twitter account and make your course public, all of your messages appear in HootCourse as well as on Twitter.

Applications for Education
HootCourse categorizes students' messages into comments, questions, and links. Anytime a student uses a question mark in a message, that message will appear in a column just for questions. If you're using HootCourse as a backchannel during a presentation the questions column will make it easy to find the questions your audience is asking.

Last winter I used a backchannel during a classroom viewing of the movie Glory. In the backchannel I had students asking questions as well as posting comments. HootCourse would have made it easier for me to address my students' questions in a timely manner.

By providing your course with a category for messages containing links, HootCourse could be useful for sharing of links that are relevant to your course discussions.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Neat Chat - Quickly Create an Ad-Free Chatroom
Five Platforms for Classroom Back-channel Chat
Back-channeling During a Class Viewing of Glory

YouTube Adds New "Unlisted" Privacy Option

YouTube announced today a new option for sharing videos. Until today there were only two ways to publish your videos on YouTube. The options were to make your video public for the whole world to discover or make your video private and then only 25 people you invited could view it. Now YouTube gives you the option to make your videos "unlisted." Using the unlisted setting means your videos can only be seen by people to whom you've given the direct url for your video. Unlisted videos will not appear in search results or related video lists. So while the videos you or students post as unlisted video won't be 100% private, you will have much greater control over who can or cannot see them.

Applications for Education
Making videos unlisted on YouTube could be a good option for sharing videos of school plays or school concerts. Unlisted is a good compromise position between totally private with its 25 viewer limitation and the public option which puts videos in search results.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Free Guide - Making Videos on the Web
30+ Alternatives to YouTube Adds Video-Based Lesson Plans

Google Geo Teachers Institute

Google has just announced a potentially great professional learning experience for teachers. The Geo Teachers Institute is a free for teachers event that will be held this summer. The institute will be a two day event, July 21 and 22, in which participants will get hands-on experience with Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google SketchUp. The announcement from Google didn't have many details, but it does appear that educators will have to apply to get into the institute. You can read the announcement here.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Google Earth Across the Curriculum
Free 33 Page Guide - Google for Teachers
Using Maps in an Elementary School Math Lesson

Primary Pad - An EtherPad Alternative

EtherPad is an excellent free tool for real-time collaboration on documents. Unfortunately, EtherPad is shutting down for good later this week. The good news is the code for EtherPad has been made open source and therefore plenty of EtherPad clones are popping-up on the web. One such clone is Primary Pad.

Primary Pad offers all of the free options that EtherPad offered. Using Primary Pad you can create a new document in one click. Your document can be shared with the world via email or by posting your document's unique url online. Each person that collaborates on your document can have their own text highlighting color. These colors help you keep track of changes to your document. Primary Pad also offers some additional services for educators, but those services do require a licensing agreement after a three month free trial. Learn more about Primary Pad in the video below.

Primarypad - Etherpad Guide from ian addison on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
Primary Pad could be a good tool for hosting online brainstorming sessions. Students can type ideas or use the drawing functions of Primary Pad to share their thoughts. If you or your students would like a permanent record of their brainstorming session, you can export the document to PDF.

You may also be interested in exploring another EtherPad alternative called TitanPad.

Discovery & 3M Young Scientist Video Challenge

Discovery and 3M are currently accepting entries for their annual Young Scientist Challenge. This year the challenge is to create a video, one to two minutes in length, that deals with the science of safety and security. The video should be centered around one the following four topics; preventing the spread of germs/disease, food safety, sun protection, or wind resistant structures. All entries are due by May 27. Ten finalists will be selected to compete in a final competition in New York, NY. All expenses are paid for the finalists competing in New York. Read all of the contest's details and rules here.