Monday, March 18, 2013

Soo Meta - A Nice, New Way to Create Multimedia Presentations

Soo Meta is a new digital presentation tool from the same people that developed the YouTube remixing tool Dragon Tape. Soo Meta allows you to combine videos from YouTube, pictures from the web or from your desktop, text, and voice recordings to create a presentation. You can also pull content in from Pinterest and Twitter to use in your final product.

The Soo Meta editor is fairly easy to use. Create a free account to get started then open your browser to SooMeta.com/create/ and title your first project. After titling your project add a background image from your computer or from the web. Next pull in a video from YouTube. The video can be yours or any other publicly shared video. You can trim the start and the end time of the video in the Soo Meta editor. To add text just click the text box in the editor and type. Finally, to narrate a frame (Soo Meta calls them chapters) in your project click the microphone icon in the editor and make your recording. Completed Soo Meta projects can be embedded into your blog or website. I created a one chapter story about my dogs and embedded it below (press the green play button in the lower right corner).


Applications for Education
There are quite a few possible uses of Soo Meta in the classroom. You could have students create projects about in which they create book trailers using video clips, images, and their voices. Students could use Soo Meta to create a digital collage of media around a current events topic that they're studying. Soo Meta might also be used by students to create a showcase of their best digital works of the semester.

5 Free Tools for Providing Remote Tech Help

If you're the "techy" person in your school but you're not in the IT department sometimes your colleagues come to you with their tech help questions before heading to the IT folks. Sometimes those questions come over the phone and you find yourself trying to explain where to click next or struggling to understand the problem the other person is trying to explain. That's when it's handy to have a screen sharing tool readily available. Here are five that are quick and easy to use.

Quick Screen Share is a free screen sharing service from the makers of Screencast-o-matic. To use Quick Screen Cast just go to their website, select share your screen, and enter your name. Quick Screen Share will then provide you with a URL to share with the person with whom you are screen sharing. When that person opens the link you he or she will be able to see your screen. Quick Screen Share doesn't require you to install anything (assuming you have Java installed) or require you to register for the service.

If Chrome is your browser of choice, the Chrome Remote Desktop is a great screen sharing tool. Using the Chrome Remote Desktop App you can grant access to your computer to another person who also has the Chrome Remote Desktop App installed. If you want to share your desktop just click "share now" and Chrome Remote Desktop will generate an access code to give to the person who will access your computer. To access and control another person's computer you just need to enter the access code that they provide to you.

Screen Leap is a free screen sharing service that I've seen endorsed by a number of speakers at ed tech conferences this winter. To share your screen using Screen Leap just visit the site, click "share your screen," enable the Java applet, and send the sharing code to the person you want to view your screen. The person receiving your invitation code will be able to see your screen when you have Screen Leap activated.

Join.me is a service offered by Log Me In. Join.me allows Mac and Windows users to quickly share their screens with each other and work together. To use Join.me you do need to download the Join.me client. Once you've downloaded the client you can start sharing your screen with anyone you like. Just give your nine digit access number to your collaborators to give them access to your screen and to converse with you.

Screenhero is a screen sharing service that offers the option for both parties (the sharer and the sharee) to use their mice to control an application. For example, I can share my screen with you and allow you to move things on my screen. Likewise, I can move things around on your screen. By sharing our screens through Screenhero any desktop application becomes a collaborative application.

Math Trail - Map Based Math Trivia Challenges

Math Trail from HeyMath! is a series of map based math trivia challenges. Math Trail offers six thematic games. Each game follows a trail of locations that students have to find by using the clues provided. If they get stumped they can click "show location" but they lose the point value for the question. When they arrive at the correction location students have to answer the multiple choice math question presented to them before moving on to the next question in the trail.


Applications for Education
Math Trail provides a nice blend of geography questions and math questions appropriate for 5th to 7th grade students. You could create your a similar game yourself through Google Maps.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ideas for Managing Academic Blogs

In the course of a year I get to run a lot of workshops about blogging. One of the questions that frequently comes up in those workshops goes something like this, “do you recommend that I have just one blog or should all of my students have their own blogs?” There is not a clear cut answer to this question because the answer depends upon how you envision using blogs in your teaching practice.

If your use of blogging is going to be limited to just distributing information about your class(es) to students and their parents, one blog is all that you need. Even if you teach multiple courses, one blog is sufficient if you’re only using it to distribute information. Simply label each new blog post with the name or section of the course for whom the information is intended. From a management standpoint it is far easier to label each blog post on one blog than it is to maintain a different blog for each course that you teach. That is a lesson that took me one semester to learn.

In the fall of 2005 I was teaching five sections of the same ninth grade social studies course and even though the content was the same each class always seemed to be in a different place than the others so I tried to maintain five different blogs. Before long I found myself either posting to the wrong blog or my students were going to the wrong blog because they had forgotten the blog’s URL and asked a classmate from a different section of the course for the blog’s URL. After that semester I decided to create one blog to use as the central online hub for all of my students. All students who took a course with me would have the URL for my blog and go there whenever they needed an update about their courses. I found it very easy to say to students, “go to my blog and click on the label for your class.” Even when I started to have students contribute to group blogs they started out by going to my blog and clicking the link to their group blogs.

If you envision having all of your students write blog posts, proper planning of the blogging process is critical to being able to keep track of your students’ work. Teachers who have twenty-five or fewer students might be able to have each student maintain his or her own blog and keep track of all of them, but even twenty-five blogs is a lot to keep track of. The solution that I recommend is to create a group blog for each class that you teach. Create the blog using whichever platform you like then make each student an author on the blog. To track who wrote what on the blog make sure that the author’s name (first names only or use pen names with young students). Alternatively, you can have students label or tag posts with their names or pen names to sort out who wrote what. As the creator and owner of the group blog you will be able to see who wrote what from your administrative panel, but that doesn’t help parents who want to check the blog to see what their children have been sharing.

Teachers who want students to use blogs to experiment with web design and coding will have to allow each student to maintain his or her own blog. Likewise, if the goal is to have each student showcase work for college or internship applications then each student will need to be the sole author on that blog. Keeping track of all of those blogs is a challenge, but a manageable challenge. One quick management method is to create a spreadsheet of all of your students’ blogs. Another quick management strategy is to create a list of links to the blogs then post that list in a side column on your own blog so that you or anyone else visiting your blog can quickly jump to a student’s blog.

On a related note, if you're trying to convince a teacher to start a blog, this slideshow that I made five years ago still illustrates one reason to have a blog that every teacher can relate to.


Cryptocat - Create Encrypted Backchannels

Cryptocat is an open source project that allows users to create private encrypted chat rooms. Cryptocat can be installed in Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or as Mac desktop application. After installing Cryptocat open the application, enter a room name and username, then click connect. To have others join you in your chat room they have to know and enter the encryption key provided by Cryptocat.

For those of you who get that nostalgic feeling when you see old 8 bit graphics, Cryptocat will make you feel like a kid again.

Applications for Education
I often talk about using TodaysMeet for backchanneling in the classroom (I featured TodaysMeet in this free PDF about classroom backchannels). The only complaint that hear repeatedly about TodaysMeet is that you cannot password protect your conversations. Cryptocat allows you to do that. Cryptocat is not going to be for everyone, the encryption keys are long and it has a very "old school" geeky feel to it. But if you're up for it, Cryptocat might be the backchannel tool for you.