Thursday, August 2, 2012

NextUp Helps Keep Your Meetings on Schedule

This tool is no longer online.

From the same person that brought us the super-useful backchannel service TodaysMeet comes NextUp. NextUp is a free service that is designed to help you keep your meetings moving at the pace you planned.

To use NextUp just go to the site, title your meeting, and start entering the key transition moments in your meeting. After entering the transition moments you can set times for each of them. When the meeting starts, click "start" on NextUp and NextUp will count down the time to each transition.

Applications for Education
NextUp could be a good little tool to help you help your students stay on task during a series of classroom activities. Set up the transition times then start the count-down and tell students that when NextUp changes they need to move on to the next activity too. - Quickly Create Simple Surveys

I've written about a lot of polling and survey services in the past. Most recently I shared this list of twelve good ones that range from simple one question tools to more feature-laden tools. This morning I learned about another good and simple tool for quickly creating an online poll. allows you to create simple one questions polls in a matter of seconds. To create a poll just go to and type your poll question. Then you can enter up to eight answer choices for respondents to select from. Your poll is automatically assigned a url. To get people to take your poll just direct them to the url and they can vote instantly. Registration is not required to create a poll or to answer a poll.

Applications for Education, like other polling services, could be useful for informally polling your students with questions like "do you feel prepared for the next assessment?" or "which topic(s) should we review again?"

Go Inside the Kennedy Space Center with Street View

Last month Google released some great Street View imagery of Antarctica. Today, Google released more great Street View imagery. The new imagery takes us inside the Kennedy Space Center. There are now 6,000 images of all of the notable aspects of the space center. Students can now look around in control rooms, hangars, launch pads and more.

View Larger Map
Applications for Education
New Street View imagery probably won't dramatically change the way anyone teaches, but Street View imagery is definitely a step above looking at static pictures in books and or online. In Street View students can pick what they want to explore in more detail. I also like that students get to explore the imagery on a map which should help them remember where the places they're looking at are located in the world.

Wikispaces Advanced Tips & Tricks Webinar

The new school year will be here soon for many of us. If you've used Wikispaces in your classroom in the past and want to take your wiki use to the next level this year, consider joining the Wikispaces Advanced Tips & Tricks webinar next week. The webinar will devle into some advanced management and design features of Wikispaces. The webinar will be held next week on Tuesday, August 7 at 11am PST. Click here for more details and registration information.

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.

course blog:
twitter: spirobolos