Monday, February 9, 2015

Infuse Learning Is Shutting Down - Here Are Some Alternatives

Since I first saw it three years ago, I have recommended Infuse Learning to any teacher that wanted to use a student feedback tool that supported drawings and mathematics symbols. It was great because students could draw responses to your questions and you would see their responses instantly in your Infuse Learning account. Unfortunately, earlier today Infuse Learning announced that they will be shutting down on April 3rd. While I'm not aware of anything quite as slick and robust as Infuse Learning, there are some feedback tools that might fill part of the void left by the closure of Infuse Learning.

Otus is a free online learning environment that designed for use on iPads and Chromebooks. One of the features of Otus is the option to create quiz questions in which students have to annotate a document or image with the drawing tools in the app. You could create a quiz question based on a document that has math problems typed on it. Your students could then write on the document to submit their answers to the problems. Click here to read more about all of the features of Otus.

MathChat is a free iPad app on which students can draw and write free-hand responses to math problems. The "chat" part of MathChat refers to the ability to collaborate and chat with other users of the app to get assistance with problems. Sabba Quidwai wrote a great post about using MathChat in the classroom. You can see Sabba's detailed post here.

Magisto - Create Videos on Your iPad, Android Device, Chromebook, or Windows PC

Magisto is a mobile video creation app that I've written about a few times in the past when it was only available for iOS, Android, and Chromebooks. Last week Magisto launched a free Windows desktop app to round-out their offerings. Like the mobile apps, the Magisto Windows app helps you mix together pictures, music, and raw video clips to create short videos. Videos created on the mobile apps will be available through the Windows desktop app too (provided you sign into and sync your online account).

Applications for Education
Magisto is not a replacement for full-fledged video editing tools like WeVideo or iMovie. What Magisto excels at is providing an easy way to quickly create a video of highlights of a school event. Magisto might also be used to develop a short book trailer in video in which students share the highlights of a favorite book. Check out Book Trailers for Readers to learn more about the book trailer concept.

Prodigy - A Fun Game Environment for Practicing Math Skills

This is a guest post from Richie Saltzman of Prodigy, an advertiser on this blog.

Game-based learning is a popular topic in education, especially digital games that take an adaptive approach to learning. Adaptive games are not only a great way to engage, but also a great way to personalize learning to meet the skill level and needs of each student. There are some great adaptive games out there, and when used as a supplemental teaching tool, can have a profound impact on student learning.

One program that is doing a good job of gamifying math is Prodigy Math Game. Prodigy is a free, adaptive math game that integrates 1st to 7th grade math into a fantasy style game that students absolutely love playing. Prodigy’s math content is completely curriculum-aligned and covers standards from the Common Core, MAFs, and TEKS curricula depending on your location. Prodigy takes game-based learning a step further and provides teachers with a powerful set of reporting and assessment tools that allow them to easily identify trouble spots, differentiate instruction, and better manage classroom time.

Over 1,000,000 students and 50,000 teachers use Prodigy for free math practice and it’s easy to see why. Here’s what one teacher we spoke to had to say about the program:

“The best thing that prodigy has done for my students is bring excitement to mathematics. The program exhibits the perfect balance of engaging elements for students and feedback tools for teachers.

Elements of Prodigy I like as a teacher:
  • The ability to track student use and accuracy gives great information to help with evaluation of students math abilities
  • The ability to give assignments relevant to the math students are doing in class allows for reinforcement of concepts taught
  • The ability to differentiate assigned lessons for students on IEPs and students who need a challenge
  • The program’s curriculum-alignment saves me from having to weed through for relevant questions - I can be sure Prodigy’s questions will reflect the curriculum
Elements of Prodigy Math Game that students enjoy:
  • Engaging in math battles and earning new rewards, pets, and other items
  • The ability to see how they are doing relative to their classmates
  • Students who struggle seek help from classmates in the top 5 instead of always going to the teacher.
  • Game questions align with the questions seen in class.
Additionally, since Prodigy is web-based students can play from anywhere on almost any device. In fact, my students spend a lot of time playing the game at home, and thanks the reporting tool I can use their progress data to better inform my classroom instruction.” Maureen Teffer, Learning Centre SERT Prodigy is effective at engaging students using an adaptive technology to cater to each individual. Prodigy’s personalized approach quickly identifies gaps in students’ understanding and works with them by pulling them back to prerequisite skills and then scaffolding them forward through more difficult concepts. As a web-based game, Prodigy can be accessed at school and at home on virtually any device. You can sign-up your class for free in less than 2 minutes.

Pearltrees - Visually Organize and Share Collections of Files and Links

Pearltrees is a visual bookmarking tool that I first tried nearly five years ago. Over the years it has changed in response to feedback from its users. One of those changes was a transition from free-form webs of related files and links to its current format of visual squares and folders. I'm a big fan of the current format.

Pearltrees now allows you to organize collections of links, videos, images, and files. All of your collections appear in your Pearltrees homescreen and from there you can access and add to any of your collections. The new format makes it easy to drag-and-drop files from your desktop to a collection in your Pearltrees account. The Pearltrees browser extension enables you to quickly add content from a webpage to your collections. To combine folders or create sub-folders simply drag and drop one folder on top of another just like you do when making folders of apps on an iPad. Speaking of iPads, Pearltrees works the same way in your web browser as it does in their free iPad and Android apps.

Pearltrees offers a handful of ways to share your collections of resources. In addition to the typical methods of Tweeting, Facebooking, and emailing collections, you can embed your collections into a webpage. Embedding your collection into a webpage could be a great way to share collections of resources with your students when they visit your classroom or course blog.

Applications for Education
Pearltrees recently published a good guide to using their service in schools. Included in that guide are tutorials for teachers and use cases for education. One of the use cases that stands out is the option to collaborate with students on the development of collections of resources during a research project.

Last but not least, Pearltrees now offers a slideshow display option that you can use when viewing all of the resources in a collection. Simply click on any item in a collection to launch the slideshow. Using the slideshow format could be a good way to have students quickly take turns discussing the resources that they have added to a collaboratively created collection. I envision doing this by opening a slideshow and flipping through the slides. When a resource that a student has added pops-up he or she will have 20-30 seconds to talk about why he or she added that resource.

Organizing Research with Diigo Outliner

This is a guest post from Beth Holland of EdTechTeacher, an advertiser on this site.

I have been a huge fan of Diigo for quite some time. Unlike other social bookmarking sites, Diigo allows me to save links from any device, tag them, and even create collaborative groups such as this one on iPads. It will also allow me to highlight and add notes within the text of any web article and then save those notes to my Diigo Library from any computer, iOS, or Android device. The video tutorial below from Greg Kulowiec gives a great overview of what is possible when using Diigo via the web.

However, most exciting of all is the newest feature from Diigo - Outliners! Consider this challenge. Students begin researching a particular project. They gather a number of online resources, but then become quickly overwhelmed when they see the magnitude of the information absent of context. With Diigo Outliners, students can digitally organize all of their resources into an outline to later guide the creation of their final research paper or project.

Consider this process:
  1. Students conduct online research using Diigo. As they read, they highlight, add notes, and tag their content.
  2. Students create a new Outliner. Before adding any of their links, they could first type an overarching structure to guide their research - whether it be key questions to answer or topics and sub-topics.
  3. Because resources are tagged, students then start dragging bookmarks into place in their Outliner.

To see what this could look like, I created this Outliner to support my research into Project Based Learning for an upcoming workshop.

Diigo also offers FREE Educator Accounts which provides unlimited access as well as a teacher console which allows for the creation of student accounts to support group research.

To learn more, know that Beth Holland will be leading a number of EdTechTeacher workshops this summer in 6 cities across the United States.

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