Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Four Good Alternatives to Clicker Systems

One of the benefits of allowing students to bring their cell phones into your classroom is that they can use them to give you anonymous feedback on sensitive questions and questions for which a name isn't necessary. For example, you might just want to take a survey of the average length of time your students spent studying for a quiz or how long it took them to complete an assignment. Here are four alternatives to purchasing clicker systems for your school while still gathering anonymous feedback from students.

Socrative is my favorite tool for collecting anonymous feedback from students. Socrative uses cell phones and or laptops (user's choice) for gathering feedback from students. You can post as many questions as you like in a variety of formats. One of the more fun question formats is the "space race" format in which students can work individually or in teams to answer questions as quickly as possible. The video below offers a nice overview of the Socrative system.


Socrative introduction video (new) from Socrative Inc. on Vimeo.


Poll Everywhere is a service that allows you to collect responses from an audience via text messaging. The free plan for K-12 educators provides selection of features and quantity of responses that is adequate for almost any classroom. One of the neat ways to display feedback gathered through Poll Everywhere is in word clouds. The word cloud feature integrates with WordleTagxedo, and Tagul.


Mobile Presenter Tools from Poll Everywhere on Vimeo.


Mentimeter allows you to pose a question to your audience and get instant feedback on that question through cell phones, tablets, and any other Internet-connected device. Mentimeter doesn't have has many features as Socrative or Poll Everywhere, but it is free and very easy to use. In the video below I provide a two minute demonstration of Mentimeter.


Infuse Learning is a free student response system that works with any Internet-connected device including iPads and Android tablets. Infuse Learning allows teachers to push questions, prompts, and quizzes out to students' devices in private virtual classrooms. In an Infuse Learning room a teacher can give students a wide variety of formats in which to response to a question or prompt. Students can reply to prompts and questions in standard multiple choice, true/false, and short answer formats. But Infuse Learning also offers an option for students to reply by creating drawings or diagrams on their iPads, Android tablets, or on their laptops.

Oweb Voice Input - Use Your Voice to Complete Google Forms

You can search Google using your voice, but once you get to a site then you're back to typing. Oweb Voice Input is a free Chrome extension that enables you to use your voice to search on websites. With Oweb Voice Input installed anytime that you see a search box on a website you can speak your query. On some sites Oweb Voice Input can be used to complete forms too.

Applications for Education
I tried Oweb Voice Input on a Google Form and it worked perfectly for filling in short answer questions. If you're using Google Forms to collect information from students and they need an accessibility option, Oweb Voice Input is a tool worth trying.

Monday, March 4, 2013

WWF Together - A Beautiful iPad App About Endangered Animals

WWF Together is a wonderful, free iPad app that I have featured on iPad Apps for School in the past. I installed the update for it over the weekend and found myself exploring the app all over again. It's too good not to share with as many people as possible.

WWF Together features ten interactive stories about endangered animals around the world. Each of the interactive stories includes beautiful images and videos, facts about the animals and their habitats, and the threats to each of the animals. The animals currently featured in the app are pandas, marine turtles, elephants, tigers, polar bears, bison, whales, gorillas, rhinos, and snow leopards. Stories about sharks and jaguars are slated for addition to the app later this year.

Applications for Education
Students can explore the WWF Together app in a couple of ways. Students can choose an animal by selecting it from the menu that unfolds when the origami polar bear is tapped. Alternatively, students can find animals by spinning a globe in the app and tapping on the blue dots that represent the locations of animals. If students have location services enabled on their iPads they can quickly learn how far the animals are from where they are using their iPads.

Teaching Art Online and Other Art Talks on Google+

When Google launched the the Google Art Project in 2011 I said that it was a "must bookmark" for art teachers. Then in 2012 it improved again by adding Street View imagery for dozens of museums featured in the project. Today, Google announced another offering through the Google Art Project. Google is now offering Art Talks on Google+. The talks will be held as Google+ Hangouts On Air.

The first talk in the Art Talks on Google+ series is happening on this Wednesday, March 6 at 8pm ET. The talk will be held with the Museum of Modern Art and the topic is teaching art online. Anyone can join the Hangout. If you have a question that you would like to ask in advance, you can submit it here.

Applications for Education
One the best parts of the Art Project powered by Google is the option to create your own artwork collection while visiting each museum. As you're touring a museum click on the "+" symbol on any work of art see it in greater detail, to add it to your collection, and to open background information about that work of art. You could have your students go on an art scavenger hunt to create collections of art according to a theme, time period, or artist.

TagCrowd Offers Three Easy Ways to Make Word Clouds

Yesterday, I shared a handful of free tools for creating word clouds. Those were all tools that I had previously tried. This afternoon I set out to find some more word cloud creation tools. You Are Your Words was suggested to me and it's a nice looking site, but it's not functioning like it should right now. To Cloud works, but it's clunky (who wants to spend time explaining "interpolation" to kids just to get them to create a word cloud?). TagCrowd, however, is a winner in my book.

TagCrowd offers three ways to create word clouds. You can create a word cloud by copying and pasting text into TagCrowd, you can upload a plain text file, or you can copy and paste a web address into TagCrowd. After using one of those three methods you can specify how many words you want to display, you can select to show the word count in your word cloud, and you specify words to exclude (common words like "the" are automatically ignored. TagCrowd supports fifteen languages.

Applications for Education
TagCrowd, like other word cloud generators, can be useful in helping students identify the words that are emphasized in a written article or a speech. After creating their word clouds ask your students to think about why the author or speaker used some words so frequently.

Word clouds can also be used to help students see which words that they have frequently used in their own works. Have your students create word clouds of their work during the revision process of writing a story or essay. The word cloud will quickly show students which words they have used a lot. Then ask them to think about synonyms for the words that they have used most often in their writings.