Friday, June 27, 2014

81 Dash - A Nice Backchannel Tool for the Classroom

81 Dash is a nice backchannel platform that I learned about today during the "Smackdown" at Hack Ed 2014. 81 Dash provides a place for teachers to create chat rooms to use with students to host conversations and share files. Once you are registered you can begin creating rooms. In your chat room you can exchange messages and files. As the owner of a room you can delete messages written by your students.

Students join your 81 Dash room by going to the URL that is assigned to your room. When they arrive at your room for the first time they will be asked to register. There are two registration options. Registering as a "guest user" does not require students to enter email addresses.

Applications for Education
81 Dash resolves the complaint that teachers have about many backchannel tools. That complaint is not having a way to delete messages or delete a room if students write inappropriate things in the backchannel.

Backchannels in general provide a good way to hear from all of the students in a classroom. A backchannel allows shy students to ask questions and share comments. For your more outspoken students who want to comment on everything, a backchannel provides a good outlet for them too.

Use Google Voice or Speak Pipe to Hear Students Proofreading Their Papers

This morning at Hack Ed 2014 I heard Jen Roberts share a good proofreading activity for students. The idea that Jen shared was having students call into her Google Voice number to record themselves reading their papers aloud. The intent of this is to have students provide proof that they have read their papers aloud as part of the proofreading process. As Jen pointed out, you don't have to listen to the entire recording because you can view the transcript to make sure that your students have read through the entirety of their papers.

Google Voice provides you with a phone number for people to call. It masks your real phone number and you can choose to have all calls go straight to voicemail. The transcripts are not always accurate, but as Jen pointed out she was only using it for the proof of process. I have put my Google Voice number on my course syllabus in the past. Click here to read about why I did that.

SpeakPipe is an alternative to Google Voice to consider using for this same kind of activity. SpeakPipe is a service that allows visitors to your blog to leave you voice messages without picking up a phone. With SpeakPipe installed on your blog anyone can click on the "send voicemail" button and leave a message for you. When a visitor clicks the "leave voicemail" button she will be prompted to allow access to her computer. Then the visitor can start recording a message for you. Visitors can, but don't have to, enter their names and email addresses for you. You can listen to and download the messages left for you in your SpeakPipe inbox. SpeakPipe has easy-to-install plugins for Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr. It took me about two minutes to install SpeakPipe on a Blogger blog. For use on other blogging platforms SpeakPipe has a script that you can install manually.

Admins Can Now Recover Lost Google Drive Files for Their Users

Google released a slew of updates to Google Drive and Google Apps this week. One of the updates that you won't notice unless you're a Google Apps domain administrator is the new option to recover files for your users. If your users delete items and remove them from their trash, you can search for the files and recover them if your users can give you an idea of when they think they deleted their files.

Applications for Education
Being able to recover files for students who accidentally remove files could make a student's or a teacher's day. Recovering a file will also be helpful in the event that you need to look for a file that a student deleted, but that you still need to review.

Students Can Create Nice Explanatory Videos on Shadow Puppet Edu

This is a partial cross-post from my other blog, iPad Apps for School.

Shadow Puppet Edu is a free iPad app that students can use to create audio slideshow videos. The app offers an integrated search tool that students can use to find pictures from the Library of Congress, to search for images from NASA, and to find Creative Commons licensed images from Flickr. Students can also import pictures and videos from the camera roll on their iPads.

After selecting a set of images students can arrange them into any sequence by simply dragging and dropping them into order. Then to create a story students press the record button and talk while flipping through the images. Shadow Puppet Edu allows students to add text and stickers to each image too. When they’re happy with their work students can share their Shadow Puppet Edu projects through a variety of methods including YouTube and email. Shadow Puppet Edu projects are automatically saved to the camera roll on a student’s iPad. Students do not have to register for an account or have an email address to use Shadow Puppet Edu.

Applications for Education
The integrated image search tool makes a Shadow Puppet Edu a winner in my book. I would have students use the Library of Congress image search to find images of historical figures, like George Washington, to create a short biographical video. You might have students use the NASA image search to find images to help them tell a story about space exploration. Of course, you could just have students take pictures of their own to tell a story about things that they observed on a field trip.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Why Book Trailers Are Great Alternatives to Traditional Book Reports

Yesterday, I gave the opening keynote for the Catholic Schools Foundation's Summer Tech Conference at Boston College. After my keynote I stayed in the same room and enjoyed a fantastic panel discussion on using technology in K-2 classrooms. One of the panelists talked about students creating book recommendations. What struck me most was not the apps (here are some for making book trailers) but this line from the panelist,

"You can tell kids how great a book is until you're blue in the face. But when their friends tell them, then they believe it." 

Applications for Education
After your students create their book trailers have them add their projects to a collaborative website. (With the youngest students you may have to do this step or turn teaching the process into a separate lesson). My choices for a site like this are Wikispaces or Google Sites. The ease with which you or your students can build pages and build navigation links is what makes Wikispaces and Google Sites my choice for a collaboratively created book review site. Wikispaces is probably a little easier to initially set-up, but if you're in a school that uses Google Apps for Education then your students will already have an account that they can use on Google Sites. The option to restrict students to editing specific pages in Google Sites is a nice option too. Click here for directions on how to do that.

In hindsight I should have asked for that panelist's name. If it was you, please send me an email so that I can give you credit.