Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SideVibe - Turning Websites into Lesson Plans

Over the last few months I have had a lot of people tell me that I should give SideVibe a try. This evening I finally took some time to see what everyone was talking about.

SideVibe is basically a browser extension (wouldn't work in Google Chrome though) that enables teachers to comment on a web pages and ask students questions about the content on web pages. To use SideVibe you have to have the SideVibe extension installed, but your students do not because you're essentially just sharing your screen image with them when you ask them questions or share your comments. In the premium version of the service ($5.99/ month) you and your students can message each other in feedback loops about the content you share with them.

The video below offers an overview of the service.

Applications for Education
SideVibe reminds me a little bit of the old Google Sidewiki. Like Sidewiki, I think SideVibe could be good for online lessons on evaluating information.

Textbooks, Wikipedia, and Primary Sources Comparison

I posted this yesterday on Google+ and it seems to have been well-received so I thought I'd share it again. In February of 2010 I designed a short activity for my students to compare textbooks, Wikipedia, and primary source documents on a given topic. Next week my students will be doing this activity with a slight modification to match where we are in the curriculum right now.

From February 2010.
A couple of weeks ago I sent out a Tweet that my students were working on a comparison of Wikipedia articles to articles in their textbooks. Judging by the reTweets and replies to my message, a lot of people were interested in the activity. What I left out of my Tweet was the third part of the assignment in which my students had to locate and use primary source documents to gain more insight into the various topics. You can find the outline of the assignment here.

There were two purposes to this assignment. First to dispel the myths that Wikipedia is unreliable and that textbooks are gospel truth. The second purpose was for students to see the value of primary source documents for gaining insights into historical events and or people. Both goals were met. The topics my students were investigating were the Sand Creek Massacre, the Battle of Little Bighorn, and the Fort Laramie Treaties. The vast majority of my students reported that they found the textbook easier to use for finding the "main points," but that the Wikipedia articles had the same information. They also reported that the Wikipedia articles had more depth of information.

Where Wikipedia shone was in getting students started on their searches for primary source documents. As you'll see in the outline, I asked my students to use the links at the end of each Wikipedia article to further investigate each topic and locate primary source documents. What I did not include in the outline is that I also allowed students to simply search the web on their own to find primary source documents. As I expected, most of them came to the realization that a lot what they were finding through their own searches was already listed in the links at the end of the Wikipedia articles. At the end of the activity every student was able to identify and add new information to their knowledge base using the primary source documents they located.

I welcome your questions and feedback. And if you found the outline useful, by all means please feel free to reuse it in your classrooms.

And just for fun...

Gandhi - Full Length Movie Online

I don't know how long this will stay up, but I just learned via Twitter that the full-length version of the 1982 film Gandhi is available on YouTube. Being that I'm a bit of a history geek and that I just like the movie, this was exciting news for me. I doubt that the person who uploaded the video had the copyright clearance to do so, so we'll see how the video stays up. Until then, here it is embedded below.

Tracks - Make Stories On Your iPhone

Tracks is an iPhone app for creating short photo stories with your friends on the go. Using the app you can create a sequence of images you take with your phone. You and your friends can comment on each shared picture. The app also lets you geolocate the images on a map to help tell your stories.

Applications for Education
When I first saw this app a few days ago I immediately thought that it could be useful for students to create stories about their neighborhoods and towns while walking. For example students could visit a series of important landmarks in their towns, take pictures, then work together to create a story by commenting on each image with information about the landmarks.

Free Common Core Webinar Series for Educators

ASCD has just announced a new series of free webinars for educators. The three part series will cover topics related to the implementation of the Common Core standards. The first webinar, on November 9, is Common Core 101. The next two in the series will address topics in implementation and school improvement. You can read the full descriptions and find registration links here.

Because some people might be influenced by this information one way or the other, I should point out that the webinar series is being paid for in part by funds from a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.