Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Four Good Ways to Use Media In Your Classroom Blog

Watching videos and commenting on them or looking at a picture and commenting on it are the most common ways that teachers have students use media in blog posts. There is definitely value in those activities as they do get students to think, write, and share. These are some other ways to think about using media in your classroom blog. 

SoundCloud is a great tool for creating short audio recordings. Those recordings can be embedded into blog posts. The feature of SoundCloud that makes it worth using instead of just embedding a recording from another service is that listeners can tie their comments to an exact moment in a SoundCloud recording. This means that if something twelve seconds into the recording triggers a thought in a students’ mind she can tie that comment to that exact moment. I’ve seen SoundCloud used by world languages teachers who have students make short recordings and post them on a classroom blog. The teacher then used the comment tool to give feedback to students.

ThingLink is a free tool for creating interactive images. To create an interactive image upload an image from your computer to your ThingLink account. After uploading the image you can add pins to the image. Each pin that you add to your image can include a video clip, a link to another site, a SoundCloud recording, a block of text, or another image. You can make your images collaborative by allowing others to add pins to the image. Images can be embedded into blog posts for students to view and or add their own pins. A few of the ways that I’ve seen ThingLink used by teachers is to have students add multimedia labels to diagrams of cells, to label geographic features, and to label historical images like that of the signing of the declaration of independence.

VoiceThread and Narrable provide platforms for uploading images and hosting discussions around them. VoiceThread offers more commenting options than Narrable, but I find Narrable easier for new users to master. Both tools allow you to embed your image-based stories into blog posts where students can comment on those images. Students will have to have an account to do this. VoiceThread allows three free projects before requiring you to upgrade to a paid plan. Narrable gives you one project before requiring you to upgrade to a paid plan.

Your classroom blog doesn’t have to be serious all the time. In fact, one of the ways that I used to make one of my blogs more appealing to students was to embed a game and or entertainment news widget into the side column of my blog’s homepage. One semester I had a group of students that enjoyed playing simple games online so I would grab a free game embed code from Novel Games and put it on my blog. A couple of years ago I put a news widget, a sports stories widget, and a TMZ feed on my blog. My goal in doing these things was to give students another reason to visit the blog besides just, “Mr. Byrne said we have to visit the blog.”