Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Apricot - Create Writing Prompts for Students and Share Responses With Parents

Apricot is a neat new service that aims to connect teachers, students, and parents through writing. The basic idea behind the service is that teachers give writing prompts to their students. Students respond to the those prompts. Teachers can then share those responses directly to parents through Apricot.

To use Apricot you register as a teacher and create an online classroom. It is possible to create multiple classrooms within your account. Students join your classroom by entering the join code provided by Apricot for your class. Once students have joined your Apricot classroom you can begin distributing writing prompts to them. If parents have joined your classroom you can share students' works with them. Parents join your Apricot classroom with join code.

Applications for Education
Apricot could be a good service through which students write weekly reflections on their learning. Those reflections can quickly be shared with parents. This kind of sharing could lead to better conversations at home than this old pattern: Parent: "what did you do in school today?" Student: "nothing."

Now You Can Add Images to Plickers Questions

Plickers is one of my favorite new tools of the last year. It has been a hit with every group that I have demonstrated it to.

Plickers uses your iPad or Android tablet in conjunction with a series of QR codes to create a student response system. Students are given a set of QR codes on large index cards. The codes are assigned to students. Each code card can be turned in four orientations. Each orientation provides a different answer. You can ask questions verbally or project them on a screen for students to see. When your ready to collect data, use the Plickers mobile app to scan the cards held up by your students. Plickers will show you a bar graph of responses. Responses can also be saved in your online Plickers account.

The latest update to Plickers allows teachers to add pictures to the questions that you create in your Plickers account. To add pictures you have to create your questions in your web browser instead of in the Plickers mobile app. Then to show the image-based questions to students you will have to project them from your laptop to a screen.

Applications for Education
Adding images to questions was the most requested feature in the Plickers user discussion forum. Many people wanted to be able to add pictures to questions in mathematics classes and art classes.

Here are three other ideas for using Plickers in your classroom:

1. Quickly taking the pulse of the class. Ask your students, "do you get this?" (or a similar question) and have them hold up their cards to indicate yes or no. You can do this with a saved class or a demo class in the app.

2. Hosting a review game. Create a series of questions in your saved Plickers classroom. To conduct the review have students hold up their cards to respond to each question. Every student gets to respond at the same time and you get to see how each student responded. This is an advantage over many review games in which only the first student to respond has his or her voice heard.

3. Take attendance. In a saved Plickers class each student has a card assigned to him or her. At the start of class just have them hold up their cards to check-in.

Collaboratively Create Multimedia Posters on LucidPress

Last fall I described LucidPress as offering the best of Apple's Pages with the best of Google Documents. Today, I was reminded of that as I explored the latest templates offered by LucidPress. LucidPress now offers an expanded set of templates for collaboratively designing and publishing posters.

I tried my hand at making a poster on LucidPress this afternoon. The process can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. I stuck with the basics of moving text and pictures around on the poster by just dragging and dropping. There are options for layering images with differing amounts of transparency, image cropping tools, and font customization options in each LucidPress template. You can also add videos into your projects (obviously they only play when viewed online).

You can use your Google Account to sign into Lucidpress and you can use items stored in your Google Drive account in your Lucidpress documents. Lucidpress has commenting and sharing features that are similar to Google Drive too. 

Applications for Education
Lucidpress is free for teachers and students (scroll to the bottom of the pricing page for information about access as an educator). Lucidpress could be an excellent tool for students to use to collaborate on creating flyers for school events, to create a collage showcasing a highlights of research, or to design a cover for an ebook.

May Flowers - A Writing Lesson

Disclousure: BoomWriter is an advertiser on this blog. 

Every month BoomWriter publishes a new writing lesson plan related to the season. This month's lesson plan is about plants. The lesson plan includes a botany vocabulary sheet, a list of standards, and steps for conducting the lesson through BoomWriter. This lesson is appropriate for students in grades four through eight.

The idea behind using BoomWriter for this lesson is to have students practice using vocabulary terms in context. Through BoomWriter you can assign word lists to students then monitor their progress as they work toward using each word correctly. You can provide feedback to students through your teacher dashboard on BoomWriter.

If you haven't tried BoomWriter or WordWriter before, check out my demonstration videos embedded below. The first video shows just the perspective of the teacher. The second video shows the perspective of a student receiving an assignment.