Sunday, January 25, 2015

Four Ways to Create Digital Records of Physical Items Your Students Create

A couple of days ago I received an email from a reader who was looking for a good app to use to create digital portfolios of students' physical works like paintings, sculptures, or handwritten work. I had just reviewed Seesaw so that was my first recommendation. There are other good tools for creating digital portfolios of students' physical works.

Skitch is a free app for iPad, Android, Mac OS, and Windows. With Skitch installed on your mobile device you can snap a picture of a students' work and save it to a folder in your Evernote account. If you need to, you can draw on the picture and type on the picture. Drawing and typing on the picture of a students' work could be a good way to make notes for yourself and or the student.

Three Ring is a free service offering free Android and iPhone apps for digitizing and organizing student work. Using the app you can take a picture of a student's work and upload it to a free Three Ring account. Once a picture is uploaded to your Three Ring account you can add notes to it. You can organize artifacts by student name, class, date, or just about any other tagging system that works for you. You can share with parents and students your notes about the artifacts you've digitized through Three Ring.

Seesaw is a free iPad app through which students can create a portfolio to document the things they have learned. Students can add artifacts to their portfolios by taking pictures of their work (in the case of a worksheet or other physical item), by writing about what they've learned, or by shooting a short video to record something they have learned. Students can add voice comments to their pictures to clarify what their pictures document. To get started with Seesaw create a free classroom account. Students join the classroom by scanning a QR code (you will have to print it or project it) that grants them access to your Seesaw classroom. As the teacher you can see and sort all of your students' Seesaw submissions. Seesaw allows parents to create accounts through which they can see the work of their children. As a teacher you can send notifications to parents when their children make a new Seesaw submission.

WeLearnedIt is an iPad app and online service through which you and your students can build digital portfolios. Through the WeLearnedIt iPad app you and your students can create digital portfolios that contain files from Google Drive, Dropbox, links from the web, images and videos captured with your iPad, and whiteboard videos created within the WeLearnedIt app. You can mark-up and annotate pictures within the app. The best aspects of WeLearnedIt are found in the feedback and sharing tools. Teachers can assign grades to elements of students’ digital portfolios. Grading is not limited to assigning scores. Teachers can give written feedback on each submission. Rubrics for assignments are available through the app too.

Disclosure: I have a small advisory and equity interest in eduClipper which developed WeLearnedIt.

CommonLit - Thematic Discussion Questions Paired With Interesting Texts

The other day I received an email from Michelle Brown at Harvard University. Her email was about a new organization called Commonlit. Commonlit is an organization that is building sets of thematic discussion questions to use in conjunction with upper elementary school and middle school students.

Here's how Commonlit works. As a teacher I select a theme such as love, social change & revolution, or friendship & loyalty. Then within my chosen theme I select a discussion question. The choice of a discussion question will lead me to a set of passages for my students to read to support classroom discussion. For example, when I selected the question, "what drives a person to betray?" in the friendship & loyalty theme I was then able to choose the text of The Donkey, the Fox, and the Lion from Aesop's Fables. Commonlit provided me with a PDF of the text to download for free.

Applications for Education
Commonlit's thematic questions could be quite helpful in getting students interested in reading. I've always found that if I can get students engrossed in a conversation around a big question, I then have a much easier time getting them to read materials related to the conversation. My students tend to want to read so that they can find more ideas to bring into their arguments in the classroom conversation.

Twine - An Open-source Program for Writing Choose Your Own Adventure Stories

On Friday evening at TeachMeet BETT I saw Alan O'Donohue demonstrate a new-to-me writing tool called Twine. Twine is an open-source program for writing choose your own adventure stories. You can use Twine online or you can download the software for Mac or Windows. I used Twine online to create a short story.

To write a choose your own adventure story with Twine online start by giving your story a title. After titling your story you will be taken to a grid canvas on which you can write short passages in a series of sticky notes. Each sticky note should be given its own title. To link elements of your stories you place brackets around the title of note within a note. Each note can be linked to two or more other notes in your story. When your story is complete you can read through it and click through it in your browser.
click image to view full size

If you use Twine online there are a couple of things you should know before you start. First, there is not a log-in or registration option. Your work is saved in your browser. To save your work permanently, click the archive icon to download a Twine file. Your Twine file can be opened later in your web browser where you can edit it further or simply read through your story. Second, to share Twine stories you will have to email the file to the person you want to read your story.
The beginning of my Twine story. (click image to view full size)

Applications for Education
Writing choose your own adventure stories in Twine could be a great way to get kids interested in creative writing. Building a good choose your own adventure story requires a lot of planning around possible story turns and endings. The visual nature of Twine's sticky note interface could help students see how parts of a story work together.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Google Drive Updates You Might Have Missed This Week (I did)

If you're like me, you probably don't install every update to your iPad apps as soon as they are released. I usually do that once a week. When I updated the Google Docs app on my iPad this morning I discovered that it now offers real-time spell checking. In looking back at the Google Drive Blog I discovered that this feature has been out since Wednesday.

Other Google Drive for iOS and Android updates that you might missed this week include updates to Sheets that allow you to hide rows and columns. Google Sheets itself (the web version) has new options for locking a sheet or range and sharing it with only some of the collaborators on a file.

Applications for Education
If you're using Sheets with students, the option to lock them into only part of spreadsheet could be helpful in focusing them on a specific subset of data within a much larger data set.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from the BETT Show in London. I've been here for a couple of days meeting with developers of educational technology products. I've also been fortunate to spend time meeting with teachers and school leaders here to learn about their challenges and successes. Last night's TeachMeet BETT offered a great opportunity to see teachers talking about their successes with technology in their classrooms. The TeachMeet BETT event was kicked-off by Sir Ken Robinson giving a short talk to the crowd. If you haven't seen or heard Sir Ken Robinson talk in the past, take a look at one of his TED Talks.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 10 Charts Comparing Popular Ed Tech Tools
2. Students Can Build and Launch Virtual Rockets on Rocket Science 101 from NASA
3. 100 Word Challenge - A Fantastic Blogging Activity for Students
4. Seesaw - Students Build Digital Portfolios on Their iPads
5. Memrise - A Nice Platform for Studying Languages, Math, Science, and More
6. Word Dynamo - More Than Just Vocabulary Games
7. Some of My Favorite Resources for Introducing Google Earth & Maps Beyond Social Studies

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference this year? Click here to learn more about professional development services.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Versal is a great tool for building interactive online course components.
MidWest Teachers Institute offers online graduate courses for teachers.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting iPad Summit San Diego in February.