Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Collaborative Lecture: A Hybrid Approach to Learning

As educators, we have often been led to believe that lecturing is “bad”, and it’s easy to see why. Just ask your students. They often complain of the many hours they have spent slavishly copying text from the screen directly to their notebook. And, to be honest, this practice hasn’t changed dramatically from Age of the Overhead Projector to the Epoch of PowerPoint (Generation).

There have been countless critiques of PowerPoint and the “cognitive style” it propagates with its built-in templates and slide layouts. Others have written far more eloquently about it than I have, so feel free to follow the links here. But for the last two decades of teaching, I have been attempting to design the kinds of presentations that have a greater visual impact on my students’ learning than the typical text-heavy, bullet-pointed teleprompter slide I created when I first utilized software such as PowerPoint.

Students also criticize the one-way nature of this kind of instructional delivery. So, in response, I have been using an approach I simply call the “collaborative lecture”. What this means is that whatever I present is not the “last word” on any subject. One of my students, Michelle, expressed it best when she wrote, “Even though the class does use PowerPoint to get information across, the presentation uses student input for discussions. The presentation does not stand alone as the final voice in what the class is about.” For example, I might lecture in my American Studies class about the history of slavery, or the “peculiar institution” as it was once called. If you click through the majority of my slides, it should become apparent that the majority of the slides contain a minimum of text, except when a long quote or image is displayed for whole-class analysis and discussion. Therefore, during the class period, the students take notes using their own words when I am speaking, making their own meaning instead of just copying what is on the screen.

But after class is over is where the lecture truly becomes collaborative and two-way. I always upload my slides to an online location so that students can access the information for their upcoming homework assignment. Each student is required to contribute a unique comment or annotation to an assigned number of slides. The contribution could be any or all of the following:

  1. The individual student’s written notes or a meaningful question, now attached to one of my slides
  2. A quote from the textbook which either extends or contradicts the information presented in class.
  3. An analysis of one of the primary source images or historical quotes

Here is an example of student contributions to the original presentation slides:


The tool I usually employ is VoiceThread, which offers either a free or paid version, and allows students to either type their comments, leave pen-like annotations, as well as record their voice or their webcam. But you could also use the “notes” section of Google Presentations and achieve a similar effect. Either way, the one-way presentations of the past will be forever transformed by harnessing the individual voices of your students, resulting in a new learning “whole”, greater than the sum of its parts.


Spiro Bolos is an 18-year veteran of the classroom, having taught a wide range of courses in Social Studies at New Trier High School. He holds a Master's Degree in History from the University of Illinois. His other specialty is Copyright and Fair Use education, through the Media Education Lab. He has presented at multiple conferences at the state and national level, and was named one of the Top 25 presenters at the CUE Conference in Palm Springs. In 2008, he became a Google Certified Teacher (GCT), one of 50 educators selected to attend a workshop at Google's headquarters.


blog: www.spirobolos.com
course blog: www.anamericanstudies.com
twitter: spirobolos
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/spirobolos

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July's Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

It's almost hard for me to believe that July is coming to an end in just a few hours from now. I hope that all of you have had a chance to enjoy the summer (and I hope that those of you in the southern hemisphere are enjoying the winter too).

This month I've been fortunate to travel and present in many places. Thank you to all of you who have helped to make that possible by inviting me to your schools, referring me to your friends and colleagues, and by sharing the posts I write here. I also have to say thank you again to the wonderful guest bloggers who stepped-in while I was traveling in Iceland earlier this month. Without all of you Free Technology for Teachers would not be what it is today. Thank you! As I do every month, I've created a list of the most popular posts in July 2012.

Here are the most popular posts of July 2012:
1. Say Goodbye to iGoogle and Hello to Symbaloo
2. 47 Page Guide to Google Sites
3. How to Ace Your Interview for a Teaching Position
4. 10 Ways to Create Videos Without Installing Software
5. 5 Ways to Use Google Sites in Schools
6. Making Educational Blogging Work for You
7. Mobile Formative Assessment: A One Device Solution
8. One Music Class - One iPad - Now What?
9. Gathering Feedback With Socrative Student Activities
10. MIT Video - More Than 10,000 Educational Videos


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Websites Like - Find Related Sites and Tools

If you have ever found a website that you really like and wished that there were more like, Websites Like is a website you should try. Websites Like helps you find sites that are similar to your favorites. To find similar sites just enter the url of a like that you like and let Websites Like suggest similar sites to you.

Applications for Education
Websites Like could be a helpful research tool for students. When a student find a site that contains useful information they can try Websites Like to find more sites that could help them out.

Website on Steroids: Creating a Powerful Blog

This is a guest post from Dan Klumper.


The topic of using blogs in education is nothing new. One thing I have noticed over the years is that many teachers use blogs in basic ways, such as posting a question(s) and having the students respond/answer. This is good from time to time, but a blog can be so much more than that. A blog can by one of the most dynamic teaching tools a teacher could have. It can be a review tool, learning tool, creating tool, collaboration tool, a sharing tool or all of them. With this post, I want to give some useful tips and ideas that can be used to make a dynamic blog. So, let’s go.



  • The Silent Review: The silent review video is something I started this past year. This is a video that my students and I make together. As you will see in the video, it is such a simple way to review, but a very helpful one. The video can be posted on your blog for the students to access easily and watch leading up to the test. The attached video is a review over Greek Mythology. (be sure the students’ answers are the correct ones!)


  • WSG Live! My blog is called Water for Sixth Grade, so at the end of each unit, I have a WSG Live! review event. This review tool allows me to study with the students the night before the test. I am at my computer at my home, and they are on theirs at their homes. (How often can a student review with the teacher the night before?) For 30-45 minutes, I go online and with my blog, ask my students questions on my WSG Live! post. We discuss the material we have been studying together.  I take off comment moderation which allows the students to answer my questions and have their responses post immediately. This is a great way to review interactively.


  • Prezi Online collaboration: I am sure you are all familiar with Prezi. So let’s take Prezi and combined it with our blog. I posted a prezi on my blog that could be edited by anyone. I told my students that sometime over the next week, they were to add anything they know or learned about our topic (ancient Egypt). At the end of the week, we had a ton of things posted. The next step was to take what was added to the Prezi and organize it into topics such as “Nile River” or “Pyramids” or “Religioni.” This forced the students to do some thinking as to which category each piece of info went into.


  • Keep it Fresh: There is a multitude of tools that can be used through your blog. Create a comic on Pixton to help students learn/review in a more fun way. Have the students post a thought/comment on Wall-Wisher. Have the students create an imaginary conversation between them and someone of their choice about a topic. Post some online flashcards for them with flashcardmachine. Hold a debate on your blog, which allows everybody to have a voice, instead of just one kid getting called on. Share student work, post interesting videos. The possibilities are endless!

Keep in mind, you want your blog to be something that the students want to go to. So don’t “over blog” but try to keep new and useful/interesting things going. Start building momentum and remind/show the students how helpful it can be.  Soon, the students will “buy in” to your blog and jump on board. And when that happens, you shall have a dynamic blog.


My name is Dan Klumper and I live and teach in Brandon, SD. I have taught 6th grade social studies for the past six years. I am originally from Worthington, MN. I attended Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD. I have a passion for technology in education because I believe it can make a huge impact on today’s students. Thank you.
Blog: http://waterforsixthgrade.blogspot.com
twitter: @danklumper
email: Daniel.Klumper@k12.sd.us 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Practice Piano With JoyTunes for iPad

JoyTunes is a small collection of iPad apps that I reviewed earlier this summer. JoyTunes builds apps that you can use to practice piano and recorder. With JoyTunes installed you play your physical instrument, but get directions and feedback through the app on your iPad. Last week they launched a new app for learning to play the national anthems of many countries on the piano.

Piano Summer Games from JoyTunes is a new free iPad app. The app provides directions and feedback for playing the national anthems of forty countries. You can play on your piano or play on a virtual keyboard on your iPad. You can compete with other JoyTunes users by earning points for playing the anthems correctly.


Applications for Education
JoyTunes could be a good piano tutor for students who have iPads. You can download the Piano Summer Games app here.