Tuesday, October 23, 2018

GoTalk - Simple Video Conferencing for Small Groups

GoTalk is a new video conferencing system designed for small groups. The GoTalk system is easy to use. Part of the reason why GoTalk is easy to use is that it doesn't require you to register to get started. To get started simply go to the GoTalk site, select a URL for your conference room, and click "create" to launch your video conference. People join your video conference by going to the URL that is assigned to your conference room.

GoTalk works best in the Chrome web browser. If you use it in Chrome, you can share your screen during your video conference. GoTalk has options for sending written messages and links during your video conference.

The free version of GoTalk limits you to four participants at a time. The free version also does not include a screen recording option.

Applications for Education
In a world in which Skype, Zoom.us, Appear.in, and many other video conferencing services already exist, I'm not sure that GoTalk is going to better than those established services. That said, if you've tried those other services for hosting short online tutoring sessions and you want to try something else, GoTalk is worth trying.

Two New Ways for Kids to Create Stories on WriteReader

WriteReader is one of my favorite tools for elementary school students to use to create multimedia stories. The outstanding feature of the service is the option for teachers to write corrections directly beneath a students' original writing in their ebooks before publication. Students can record their voices on the same pages that they write on in their ebooks. And students can use their own original artwork or select artwork provided by WriteReader to include in the pages of their ebooks. This fall WriteReader added two new artwork options for students to use in the creation of their multimedia ebooks.

WriteReader's first update this fall added comic speech and thought bubbles to the design tools that students can use to create their ebooks. Students can now place comic-style speech and thought bubbles over any image on a page in their WriteReader ebooks. Students can write within those bubbles and still write below the images on their pages. Students could use that combination of options to write a dialogue between characters in the speech bubbles then use the space below the images to write narration or setting descriptions.

The second update that WriteReader made this fall introduced a new 3"x 4" image bank. This image bank features sets of cartoon scenes designed to be used as story prompts. Students can mix and match scenes to develop the sequence of a story and then write their stories based on the scene sequences that they create.

Applications for Education
In addition to the features mentioned in the opening paragraph of this post, WriteReader offers students tools to hear their words read aloud as they write their books. This gives students immediate feedback as to whether or not they have spelled words correctly or are close to spelling words correctly.

Monday, October 22, 2018

PicLits - Using Pictures to Inspire Creative Writing

PicLits is an excellent site for finding creative writing prompts. PicLits aims to provide inspiration for writing short stories. PicLits tries to reach this goal by providing users with images upon which they can build their writing. To get writers started, PicLits provides a list of words which can be dragged and dropped into sentence form. If you don't want to use or don't need a word list, you can select the "freestyle" option to begin free-form writing.

Applications for Education
The idea of PicLits is not to write a full story within the images, but rather to use the images as the inspiration for longer pieces. In that regard PicLits could be a good source of inspiration for the reluctant writers in your classroom.

ClassTools SMS Generator - Text Messages Between Historical Figures

Last week I wrote about three ways that students can create social media profiles for historical and literary characters. Writing that post reminded me of the Classtools Fake SMS Generator. You could have students use the Classtools SMS Generator to create simple conversations between historical characters as way to get them to think about those peoples' lives and the conversations that they might have had. In the following video I demonstrate how to use the SMS generator.

Slides from my CECA/CASL Presentations

Yesterday and today I had the privilege to speak at the CECA/CASL conference in Connecticut. It was an honor to be invited back to speak at a conference in my home state. Thank you to everyone who came to hear me speak. It was a pleasure to meet many of you throughout the conference and I hope that we meet again.

For those who are curious about what I spoke about at the conference, the slides from all of my presentations are embedded below.