Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Unhangout - Video Conferencing With Break-out Groups

We've had "unconferences" in the form of EdCamps for years. Now we have Unhangout for "unwebinars." Unhangout is a free video conferencing service developed by a small team at the MIT Media Lab. Unhangout provides free video conferencing spaces that include chat and the ability to create break-out groups from the main video conference. The purpose of the break-out feature is to let the group start with a big conversation and then let small groups split off for conversations that develop during the conference. In that sense it's a bit like the EdCamp "unconference" model. Watch the following video to learn more Unhangout.

Applications for Education
My initial thought about Unhangout is that it could be a good tool for online, informal professional development in the EdCamp model. For folks like me who don't care for how impersonal some Twitter chats have become, Unhangout could offer a more personal connection to the folks with whom you're discussing the issues of the day.

I learned about Unhangout from a post that David Kapuler wrote last week. Thanks David!

Create Fillable PDFs and Online Forms With JotForm

JotForm is a great tool for creating fillable PDFs and online forms for things like course registration, permission slips, and course evaluations. Last week I wrote a detailed overview of JotForm. Today, I made a video that walks you through the features of JotForm from the perspective of a form creator and a form respondent. Take a look and see if JotForm could be the solution you need for your next course evaluation or permission slip form.

Disclosure: JotForm is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

GoTalk - Simple Video Conferencing for Small Groups

GoTalk is a new video conferencing system designed for small groups. The GoTalk system is easy to use. Part of the reason why GoTalk is easy to use is that it doesn't require you to register to get started. To get started simply go to the GoTalk site, select a URL for your conference room, and click "create" to launch your video conference. People join your video conference by going to the URL that is assigned to your conference room.

GoTalk works best in the Chrome web browser. If you use it in Chrome, you can share your screen during your video conference. GoTalk has options for sending written messages and links during your video conference.

The free version of GoTalk limits you to four participants at a time. The free version also does not include a screen recording option.

Applications for Education
In a world in which Skype, Zoom.us, Appear.in, and many other video conferencing services already exist, I'm not sure that GoTalk is going to better than those established services. That said, if you've tried those other services for hosting short online tutoring sessions and you want to try something else, GoTalk is worth trying.

Two New Ways for Kids to Create Stories on WriteReader

WriteReader is one of my favorite tools for elementary school students to use to create multimedia stories. The outstanding feature of the service is the option for teachers to write corrections directly beneath a students' original writing in their ebooks before publication. Students can record their voices on the same pages that they write on in their ebooks. And students can use their own original artwork or select artwork provided by WriteReader to include in the pages of their ebooks. This fall WriteReader added two new artwork options for students to use in the creation of their multimedia ebooks.

WriteReader's first update this fall added comic speech and thought bubbles to the design tools that students can use to create their ebooks. Students can now place comic-style speech and thought bubbles over any image on a page in their WriteReader ebooks. Students can write within those bubbles and still write below the images on their pages. Students could use that combination of options to write a dialogue between characters in the speech bubbles then use the space below the images to write narration or setting descriptions.

The second update that WriteReader made this fall introduced a new 3"x 4" image bank. This image bank features sets of cartoon scenes designed to be used as story prompts. Students can mix and match scenes to develop the sequence of a story and then write their stories based on the scene sequences that they create.

Applications for Education
In addition to the features mentioned in the opening paragraph of this post, WriteReader offers students tools to hear their words read aloud as they write their books. This gives students immediate feedback as to whether or not they have spelled words correctly or are close to spelling words correctly.