Friday, August 12, 2011

10 Common Challenges We'll Face This Fall - Challenge #5: Giving Every Student a Voice

Image Credit 
One of my most popular presentations, the one that I'm most frequently asked to give, is 10 Common Challenges Facing Educators. When giving this presentation I outline challenges that classroom teachers often face and present some resources and strategies for addressing those challenges. In preparation for the new school year I've created a series of blog posts based on that presentation. Today's post is about giving every student a voice through back channels.

What is a back channel?
The short answer is that a back channel is a digital forum through which students can share ideas and post questions while another activity is happening in your classroom. For example, when I give mini-lectures I create back channels through TodaysMeet. Through that forum students can post questions as they come up. I also use back channels when students watch news clips and or documentaries. Students ask their clarifying questions and I respond to them while the students are watching the video. For some ideas on using back channels in elementary school classrooms, read this article that I posted last year.

These are the slides that I use when running workshops about using back channels in your classroom.
Backchannels in the classroom
View more presentations from Richard Byrne

This is part five of a ten part series of posts about common challenges facing educators. If you're interested in having me speak about this topic or others at your school or conference, please contact me through the Work With Me page.

5 Free Tools for Creating Book Trailer Videos

The traditional book report that asks students to critique the books that they read is a staple of many classrooms. If you would like to add a new element to book reports try having students add visual and audio components to book reports by having students create book trailers. Book trailers are short videos designed to spark a viewer's interest in a book. A great place to find examples of book trailers is Book Trailers for Readers. If you would like to have your students try to create book trailers, here are five free video tools that are well-suited to that purpose.

Animoto makes it possible to quickly create a video using still images, music, video clips, and text. If you can make a slideshow presentation, you can make a video using Animoto. Animoto's free service limits you to 30 second videos. You can create longer videos if you apply for an education account.

Stupeflix is a service that allows user to quickly and easily create video montages using their favorite images and audio clips. In many ways Stupeflix is similar to Animoto and Flix Time, but there are a couple of differences that are worth noting. Adding text to the images is slightly easier in Stupeflix than it is on Animoto. Stupeflix offers only one default soundtrack so you have to upload your own audio clips. That said the advantage of Stupeflix is that you can use more than one audio clip within the same video.

Shwup is a service similar to Animoto and Stupeflix for creating videos based on your images and audio files. At its most basic Shwup is a place for creating collaborative private photo albums. As the creator of an album you can select the best images and create a video for the group. You can choose to share your videos privately so that only those you invite can see them or you can share your videos on Facebook, Twitter, or embed them into your blog.

Flixtime is a video creation service that is quite similar to Animoto and Stupeflix. Flixtime gives users the ability to create 60 second videos by mixing together images, video clips, and music tracks. You can use your own images, video clips, and music tracks or you can choose media from the Flixtime galleries. Flixtime also gives you the option to record voiceovers for your videos through their site.

Masher is a free tool for creating video mash-ups. Masher offers a large collection of video clips from the BBC's Motion Gallery and Rip Curl video. There is a large music library, an effects library, and a good selection of video player skins. If you don't find content that you like in Masher's library, you can add your own images, video clips, and music clips through the Masher uploader. Masher also gives you the option to insert text throughout your videos. Creating with Masher is a simple matter of dragging elements from the media gallery into the timeline editor. From there you can arrange the sequence of elements using the drag and drop interface. When you're happy with the sequence, publish and share your production.

Free Stuff Friday - Free Tee-Shirts

Borrowing an idea that I've seen used on some other blogs, for the next month I'll be giving away free stuff on Friday mornings (eastern time). Some weeks will be t-shirts and other weeks it will be coffee mugs or other physical things to put in your classroom.

This week the newest advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers, Learn Boost, is giving away a pair of tee-shirts. To win one of the shirts, pictured below, just leave a comment on this post with a quick thought about Learn Boost. At 7pm (EST) I will randomly select a winner from the comments. It's that easy to enter.
Learn Boost is a free online gradebook program that can be used by individual teachers or distributed across an entire school through Google Apps for Education. Click here and here to read some previous news about Learn Boost.

Update: Winners have been chosen. I used to randomly select winners. Comments were numbered 1-51 then was used to generate the numbers. Congratulations to this week's winners. You will hear from me shortly.

Jo Ann Estevez
Karie Huttner
K. Michelle Howell- Martin
Michael Draper

And congratulations to Karen Henchy who is Learn Boost's Facebook cash giveaway winner. Her blog link is The giveaway amount is $514.35 and she wins half ($257.17) and Learn Boost is donating the other half to her school for use on supplies or anything else.

Congratulations to last week's winners of Learn Boost coffee mugs. 
Mike Morrell
Sharlene Berry
Jennifer Hackathorn
Nancy Edwards
Leslie Smith 

Snapify - Search the Web Without Leaving the Page You're Viewing

Snapify is a free Google Chrome extension that allows you to highlight a word or phrase on any webpage and quickly find more information about that word or phrase. Here's how it works; with Snapify installed you simply highlight a word then click "Snap It." When you click "Snap It" a dialogue box appears with information from Wikipedia, Google Search results, YouTube Videos, Tweets mentioning your highlighted word, and a Google Map. The video below offers a demonstration of Snapify (there is not any sound in the video).

Snapify reminds me of another product that I like called Apture. Apture performs the same types of functions as Snapify. You can read about Apture here.

Applications for Education
Snapify could be a handy search tool for students to have installed in their browsers. If students come across an unfamiliar word or phrase while reading an article online they can simply activate Snapify to find a definition or explanation without leaving the page they're reading.

CNN Student News Will Be Back On Monday

One of my favorite resources for quick current events lessons is CNN Student News. The program has been on hiatus since the end of May. On Monday CNN Student News will resume with new daily episodes. Each episode is about ten minutes long and is accompanied by a written transcript, bullet points, and discussion questions. Each day's episode appears around 6am EST and the transcripts are available the night before the video appears online.

Here's a short trailer for the new season of CNN Student News.