Friday, June 14, 2013

Two Nice Tools Students Can Use to Create Picture Books

Over the years I've found that drawings and pictures can be good creative writing prompts for students. Here are two tools that elementary school students can use to create stories prompted by drawings.

Storybird provides templates and artwork for creating digital stories. To use Storybird you simply select a theme (layout) then drag and drop the drawings you like into your story. Once you've selected drawings for your story, you then write in the text of your story. Using Storybird, anyone can create great-looking digital picture book stories regardless of your drawing skills or lack there-of.

Picture Book Maker allows students to create six page stories by dragging background scenes into a page, dragging in animals and props, and typing text. All of the elements can be sized an positioned to fit the pages. Text is limited to roughly two lines per page. Completed stories are displayed with simple page turning effects. Stories created on Picture Book Maker can be printed.

DOGO News - Create and Share Lessons About the News

Last month I shared five good places for kids to learn about the news. This evening I learned about another good place for students to learn about the news. DOGOnews is a student news site that was featured on the Wikispaces blog.  DOGOnews covers current events stories in the areas of science, sports, entertainment, and variety of topics that fall under the banner of social studies.

Applications for Education
There are some aspects of DOGOnews that teachers should find handy. First, when you select an article on DOGOnews you will see a link to Common Core standards that can be connected to the article. Second, all articles are accompanied by an embed code that you can use to put the story into a blog post for your students to read. Third, you can create an DOGOnews classroom account. In your classroom account you can post articles with notes and questions attached to them. When your students log into the classroom account they will see the articles you've posted along with the notes and questions you've added to the articles.

Fotopedia Reporter Lets You Create Beautiful, Geo-located Digital Stories

Since its launch a few years ago Fotopedia has been a great place to view images of nature. One of my favorite iPad apps is the Fotopedia National Parks app in which I browse great imagery of some of my favorite places. This week Fotopedia introduced a new service that allows you to create your own beautiful picture stories.

Fotopedia Reporter, available for use online and as an iPad app, lets you upload pictures and geo-locate them to create digital stories. When you use Fotopedia Reporter you create digital booklets of your images. When you upload an image you can add a description to it, center it on a map, and link to a Wikipedia entry about the place or thing featured in your picture. All stories must have at least six images plus a cover image.

Applications for Education
Fotopedia Reporter could be a fantastic tool to have your students use to create digital booklets about places that they study in a geography lesson.

Tour Mark Twain's House In Google Maps

Google Maps received another update yesterday. On the Google LatLong Blog it was announced that 1,001 new places can be viewed in Street View. One of the places featured in the announcement is Mark Twain's house. The exterior of the house was previously viewable in Street View. The new imagery takes you inside the house.

The 1,001 new places in Street View are not only in the United States. New Street View imagery of notable places in Canada, Europe, South America, and Asia is now available in Google Maps too. Take a look at the
Singapore Zoo in Street View.

Applications for Education
Google's continuous expansion of Google Street View imagery means that our opportunities to take students on virtual tours continues to expand too. I love using imagery to prompt students to ask questions that they can then research the answers too. For example, I can now take my students inside Mark Twain's house and show them this corner of this living area which may then lead to questions about what Mark Twain and his contemporaries did for home entertainment.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

5 Benefits of Using Backchannels In Your Classroom

Over the last two weeks I've introduced a lot of teachers to using Padlet, TodaysMeet, and Socrative in their classrooms. All three of these tools can be used as backchannel and informal assessment tools. I've written about various ways to use each of these tools in the past. (Click here for TodaysMeet, here for Padlet, and here for Socrative). Here are some of the key benefits of using backchannels in your classroom.

1. Shy students are given a place to ask questions and contribute to conversations.

2. Students who process information by asking a lot of questions can ask an unlimited amount of questions without dominating the classroom conversation. Everyone can see their questions and you can choose when to address their questions.

3. Gauge your students' interest in and or prior knowledge of a topic.

4. Extend your classroom conversations beyond the time in your school's schedule. If you have started a backchannel during a classroom conversation and it's going well you don't have to worry about running out of time because you can have students continue the dialogue later in the day. Students who thing of a question or comment later in the day can add them without having to wait until the next class meeting to share that question or comment.

5. Gauge the effectiveness of an activity in real time. By having students share questions and comments during an activity, you can get an immediate sense of the effectiveness of that activity by gathering feedback from all of your students.