eMINTS Hangout Recap #1

A few eMINTS instructional specialists were able to test out Google’s new “Hangout” feature in Google+ yesterday. The primary intent was to share some facilitation ideas and resources while exploring the possibilities Hangouts offer. Eventually, we would like to invite anyone connected to eMINTS to join us, but yesterday was just a trial run.

What we found is that Google Hangout is an ideal platform for conversation and collaboration. The interface made it easy for our small group of three to speak “face-to-face”, chat, and contribute to a shared Google Document. We also could have recorded the meeting using the broadcast feature but opted not to this time around.

In the future, there is a plan to focus each Google Hangout on a particular topic. Additionally, expect a recording of the meeting to be posted here just in case you can’t make it. Also be on the lookout for the shared document sure to hold many useful ideas and resources. This week’s document will be displayed below.

Next week’s Hangout will focus on how eMINTS facilitators will apply lessons learned from the Center for Adaptive Schools to our professional development program. There will also be time for participants in the Hangout to share online tools they have recently discovered. A video and Hangouts notes will be shared here on either Thursday or Friday.

Would  you be interested in joining our Google Hangouts in the future? Add me to your circles on G+ and I’ll add you to the “eMINTS” circle. The tentative plan is to meet every Wednesday at noon, but we are open to suggestions. If there is enough interest beyond the nine-person limit Google offers, we’ll expand to multiple Hangouts.

Again, let me know that you’re interested and we’ll Hangout!


Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger with the eMINTS National Center.

Participating in the eMINTS Conversation

Maybe the biggest benefit of the Web is the fact that conversations are happening everywhere about almost any topic. The eMINTS community is no different. We have many opportunities for conversation within our many web-based outlets.

This blog is one of those outlets. Commenting or submitting your own blog posts makes Networked Teaching & Learning a perfect location for finding new ideas and resources as well as interacting with others in the eMINTS community. Even if you don’t submit a post or comment, NT&L offers teachers a variety of teaching ideas, online resources, and updates from the eMINTS National Center.

Like many of you, eMINTS has a presence on Facebook. Facebook has made it easier and easier to connect personally and professionally with various networks of people. eMINTS meets you there with a Facebook Page and Group. Both spaces keep you updated as well as allow you to connect to other educators in the eMINTS network.

For those who prefer the professional connections of LinkedIn, eMINTS has you covered there as well. Join the eMINTS Group at LinkedIn as a way to make connections with like-minded educators in a completely professional network.

Two other places to follow eMINTS-related discussions are on Twitter and Tumblr. My Twitter account mostly shares links from this blog, but I will occasionally engage conversations under #edtech and #edchat hashtags. If you’re a Tumblr user, be sure to follow the posts at the eMINTS Tumblr, primarily set up to share resources.

Finally, I will beginning to host Google Hangouts in an attempt to find new and exciting web applications for classroom use. If you are interested in participating in these Hangouts,  add me to your G+ circle and message me about inclusion in the Hangout. Even if the Hangout fills up (there’s a limit of nine participants), it’s an opportunity to chat with other eMINTS educators, possibly setting up your own Hangouts.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

Staying Connected & Collaborating

School is out for summer (unless of course you are teaching summer school) and you might be finding that you miss those colleagues you normally see day to day. Your normal routine of getting to talk with, share your classroom ideas and success, and bounce ideas off of for some upcoming projects has been put on hold but does it really have to stop. I say no!!!

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Why not check out some virtual options? Tools like Edmodo, Facebook, and Twitter can help you to continue your collegial collaboration, stay connected, and possibly take it a step further. You might even extend your normal summertime routines to include expanding your professional learning with a little lightly structured, informal PD.What’s better…they are free tools and are easy to use.

Edmodo is a great option for setting up a virtual classroom or collaborative sharing space (they call these groups). Everyone in your group will need to create an account (FYI adults are considered Teachers and kids are Students) One person will need to create the Group and then share the Code Edmodo creates with everyone that will be a part of that group. Then let the sharing begin. Resource links and documents are easy to share as well as basic communications. Check out the Edmodo Help page for help getting started or attend a Webinar for more ideas and support. I attended a webinar last week and got a lot of great ideas for not only the teachers that I train but also for schools and organizations that I work with.

Facebook Groups are another option for sharing and learning from others. eMINTS has their own Facebook group where these Networked Teaching & Learning posts are shared but also other resources. Anyone belonging to the group can share on the eMINTS group page as well. Members can add posts, links, share photos/video, conduct polls, and upload files. If your team members already have Facebook accounts and are ready for an group online presence to do these kinds of things, maybe creating a Facebook Group is the answer for you. If you need some help there are very easy steps to follow and you can even set privacy settings to allow only your Friends in your group. Learn more about Facebook Groups from Facebook or from a post from Zac back in August 2011.

Twitter offers an even easy way to connect with no need to create pages or groups on a different website. Basically all that needs to happen is that each person in your collaborative circle needs to have a Twitter account. You each need to share your usernames and “follow” each other. Start by sharing your thoughts, ideas, opinions, resources, tools, and inspirations and watch your Wwitter homepage for what others are sharing back. With Twitter there is no pressure or need to be wordy, chatty, long-winded, etc…all you need are 140 characters. Need some help with Twitter? Check out their support page for basic support and more.

With all of these tools it does take some discipline and conscious effort to be a productive member but as long as everyone shares a little you can all learn a lot.

What are some things you are collaborating on this summer and what tools work for your group?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialists for the eMINTS National Center.

Get Ready to Jump to Google Drive

Almost everyone associated with eMINTS – teachers, administrators, instructional specialists -has adopted Google Docs as their preferred online collaboration and production tool. Now, Google is taking their cloud-loving system a step further with Drive. Watch…

With Google Drive, creating and collaborating is still a key feature. However, now storing and finding your files are as effortless as… well… everything else on Google. Plus, Google Drive has a downloadable app to make synching easy, much like DropBox. Each user receives 5GB of storage for free with an option to upgrade for a small fee.

For more details on the benefits of switching over to Google Drive, read Google’s blog post on this new feature. There’s also a Droid app for even more syncing options. Below are a few more articles and blog posts on Google’s newest product:

When do you plan to make the leap to Google Drive? How will this affect your DropBox use? What advantages do you see to Google Drive over the old version of Google Docs?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

Four Tools to Make Infographics

I love infographics. There is no better way to visually describe or illustrate our world than a proper infographic. These graphics are engaging, aesthetically pleasing, and informational at the same time.

I regularly read the blog Information Aesthetics, an essential resource for all kinds of data representations. In recent days, IA has uncovered three great tools for creating one’s own infographics. Check each one out and choose the one that would best fit your students’ needs.

Visual.ly has actually been around for months which is decades in internet years. Visual.ly once focused on creating a community around sharing inforgraphics and other visual representations of data but now offers a rather easy-to-use tool where users can insert their own social media data into several highly-customizable inforgraphics. Despite the customization of the appearance, Visual.ly appears to be limited to infographics using social media data. That’s crucial in the 21st century but it’s still a bit limited. [IA post]

Easel.ly is a start-up that is offering a beta service for average users to create their own infographics virtually from scratch. The online editor allows users to drag and drop vector images they have created onto a canvas created by designers so as to insure an aesthetically pleasing infographic. However, as easy as it is to make your graphic look like an infographic, it doesn’t work with actual data to make your inforgraphic come to life. [IA post]

Like Easel.ly, Infogr.am offers some simple templates which users can manipulate to fit their needs. However, Infogr.am differs in that users may enter their data to create visualizations based on the numbers and not just designer aesthetics. Again, this is an online tool with a simple interface to navigate. [IA post]

Venngage is an infographic tool from visualize.me, the resume infographic generator. This tool differs from previous tools in that the images display as HTML elements, affecting the Google hits and online traffic. Like Infogr.am, Venngage feeds data into the resulting graphics but allows more flexibility in design elements. [IA post]

Each tool offers varying degrees of freedom and support in design elements and data entry.    It all depends on the kind of project one might have students use these tools for and the amount of technological experience among students and teachers. All of these tools make it easier to create engaging infographics, providing another alternative to the PowerPoint presentation or poster project.

How have you used infographics with your students? How would you use these tools both to present information and to offer students as a publication tool? Which of these tools would fit your needs best?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

One Year Ago: May 17-20, 2011

Since this blog has been around for just over 18 months, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to look back now and again at the many great resources and ideas we’ve shared. After you read the following posts, feel free to search through our archives for resources that might help you as you plan for the end of this year or prepare for the fall.

Tuesday, May 17: Create Quick and Easy Visual Organizers
Brooke introduced us to the exciting graphic organizer tool called Popplet. Popplet’s strength lied in its iPad app, but the online version offers plenty of uses despite its beta status. Brooke summarizes:

Popplet is a Web 2.0 tool for creating graphic/visual organizers with a simple, easy to use platform. Popplet allows users to explore ideas, create galleries, record thoughts, collect inspiration, collaborate together, and present it all to the world.

Wednesday, May 18: Five Helpful Links
I posted five links to resources and tools that would be helpful for teachers and students.  The first link led readers to Lifehacker‘s “Emailable Tech Support” feature where users could email these articles to those needing basic tech support. Also included in my post are links to YouTube’s political debate channel; the file-sharing, online application Fyle; Google Public Data Explorer; and an Edutopia article on differentiation through technology.

Thursday, May 19: Helping Students Learn Through Reflection
In this post, Brooke shares a few suggestions for helping student learn through reflection. Included with the strategies, Brooke has also cited several useful web apps such as Corkboard.meWallWisher.com, and Glogster.com.

Friday, May 20: Shared Experiences
A Twitter user’s shared image of the space shuttle from her plane made her an instant sensation. This example brought home the power of social media to share similar experiences with many people at one time.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

Supplementing Your Classroom Website

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Creating and maintaining a classroom website or portal can time-consuming and taxing on a school’s servers. Even when using a free, online host like Weebly or Google, integrating a website with one’s curriculum and classroom community can be difficult. Of course, one can always turn to the myriad of online tools to help supplement a classroom website.

One typical use for a classroom website that can be tedious is the constant updating of resources. In the past, we would have to edit our pages to include new and updated resources with hyperlinks, possibly adding descriptions or even additional pages. Instead of creating and updating resource pages, use social bookmarking tools like Delicious and Diigo.  Both tools offer “bookmarklets” that work in almost any browser. This button allows easy bookmarking. By carefully including descriptions and thoughtful tags, users can easily create pages of resources under a variety of topics.

One issue with maintaining a website is keeping it up-to-date in regards to classroom news and announcements. With most web sites, we have to actually edit the pages only to have to redo it periodically so that it appears updated. Additionally, passing along information this way leaves no opportunity for interaction and discussion. A blog, however, is easy to update while archiving past posts, plus it allows for parents, teachers, and students to respond and continue the discussion. Weebly features its own blogging tool, but tools such as WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr can fill your blogging needs well.

Some school districts have in-house learning portals or shared folders that allow teachers and students to pass files back and forth. However, this is not available everywhere or districts have limited server space. Two online tools can make sharing files easy. Google Docs isn’t just a tool for collaboration and creation. Google’s ample server space makes storing and sharing documents a breeze. The other great site for file sharing is DropBox which provides users a downloadable app for easy file transfer without navigating to and logging into a remote site.

Some teachers would like to create a working space for students to display their work online. Uploading and adding student content to one’s site can be quite the endeavor. Setting up a wiki at a site like Wikispaces can allow students to upload, publish, and share on their own. The commenting feature makes it easy for additional interaction.

Back when we in eMINTS would help teachers create calendars from scratch using web-authoring software, one of the greatest challenges was creating calendars. These calendars either required multiple pages on a site or would require regular updates. By using a calendar through Google or Yahoo, users can keep a public calendar that updates every time they enter events. Users have the option of linking their audience directly to calendars or embedding calendars in their home sites.

A website is limited in that it is absent the personal interaction we have with students on a daily basis in class. However, social networking can fill that void. Facebook’s group feature makes it easy for classes to interact in as public or private a forum as necessary without teachers worrying about friending their students. Twitter is a bit more open to the rest of the web, but through the use of groups, hashtags, and tools like Tweetdeck, discussion is easy to manage. However, if either of these tools are inaccessible at your school, there is always the school-friendly option at Edmodo.

Whatever your website needs may be, there are creative ways to use online tools to help you make the most out of your site’s effectiveness. Hacking an online tool to make it suit your educational needs is often an efficient way to make a website more than just…well, a website.

How have you used online applications to enhance your classroom website? What is something you want to do with your site that you just can’t figure out using online applications? How might you envision using web apps to enhance a classroom website?

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Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

How to Use TED Ed

A very exciting development happened late last month when the popular conference series TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) entered the education arena with TED Ed. TED announced the establishment of the educational site featuring the best minds providing talks in lecture form while accompanied with engaging animation. Included with the lectures are quizzes and other teacher tools geared toward customization.

As pointed out at Teach Paperless, the site’s concept of a lesson is disappointingly narrow, even traditional. Blogger Shelly Blake-Plock suggests that learning happens when students do rather than just consume and that TED’s model is all about consuming their video content. He concludes, “If I took the name TED out of this scenario, I would suggest that many educators would say that this format is exactly the type of traditional assessment that project-based, inquiry-driven, personalized learning is at odds with.”

How should we use TED Ed in a progressive classroom?

One model is one that TED promotes. Like the Khan Academy, the flipped schooling method is gaining momentum. Basically, teachers provide these lectures and tutorials for students to digest on their own and complete assessments so that a more active and engaged kind of learning can happen in the classroom. Teachers can guide student learning in class while someone else (TED presenters and animators) dispense the knowledge outside the classroom, in-place of homework.

The only trouble with the flipped classroom is when we rely too heavily on the resources and assessments in evaluating student learning. The video lectures also take over and become the only measuring stick of learning as opposed to the growth and experimentation that happens in class.

Where I see TED Ed video lectures and their ilk supporting learning is as a resource. The difference between these lectures and more traditional resources is that someone has compartmentalized and presented the content in a way that is engaging to visual and auditory learners. It’s a new way to deliver information. It also doesn’t help that the videos are entertaining.

The assessment pieces accompanying TED Ed videos (as well as Khan Academy, MITx, etc.) also have a legitimate application when not teachers do not disproportionately depend upon them. As a formative assessment tool, these online quizzes allow for instant feedback to be given to students as well as providing a way for teachers to check in on student progress in order to know when best to intervene. Again, it’s a valuable tool that should be used appropriately and not consume instructional focus.

TED Ed should be seen as a supplemental resource to the many great things we do to promote learning and growth in our students. It should not replace inquiry, project-based learning, and other student-centered forms of instruction.

Another place these TED Ed videos can support learning is in an area all TED videos have thrived over the last several years: inspiration. Imagine showing a video of an engaging presenter clearly providing authentic uses for knowledge with animation that gives their words life. Why can’t students then create their own TED Ed videos to demonstrate their learning? Why can’t they teach each other using this method?

The key is not to depend on TED Ed to teach for you. The videos TED is releasing are beautiful, insightful, and inspiring. This is where their value lies and should be tapped for bringing so much life to otherwise boring and/or confounding content.

Other sites that function similarly to TED Ed and similar resources:

How have you used TED videos in your classroom? What are some of your favorite TED Ed videos? Have you submitted your own lesson for TED yet?

Zac Early is a blogger and instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

eThemes: A Reminder and Time Saver

Look what showed up in my inbox yesterday…

As you have noticed over the past weeks I have been sharing the ins and outs of stop-motion video. During my search for resources I checked eThemes and noticed they didn’t have anything available. Since I am a former eMINTS teacher I can request new eThemes. In just minutes I filled out the form including the types of resources I was looking for, grade levels, standards, and specific details further describing what I needed. I also shared a few links that I had already found to help them understand what I was specifically looking for. In less than 2 weeks they returned my eTheme and I was ready to roll.

For those of you not familiar with eThemes it is a “source for content-rich, kid-safe online resources that will help enhance your teaching and save you time. eThemes provides free, fast access to over 2,500 collections of websites, on topics ranging from Aerodynamics to Zebras and everything in between!”

eThemes saves teachers’ time looking for resources by doing the searching for you. Anyone can use the existing themes and any eMINTS teacher can request a new theme be searched giving them more time to focus on teaching.

Check out eThemes now and make a request to start planning your next classroom project.

Brooke Higgins and Julie Szaj are instructional specialists with the eMINTS National Center.

Crocodoc

I have to share a great new tool that a friend of mine, Debbie Perkins, shared with me; Crocodoc.   I love this new little tool.

Basically this tool allows you to upload PDF’s, documents, or images, share them with anyone and then the people you share it with can add comments, highlights, and text  to whatever you uploaded.    So if I upload an article and share it with someone, that person or persons can add whatever they would like.  And yes, they can add at the same time.

I see a lot of ways that this can be used.  You could upload an article and have individuals or groups highlight and comment on what they feel are the most value points.  Documents that need corrections could be uploaded, like sentences or paragraphs, and then corrections could be made by many individuals with their comments as to why they made the correction they did.  You could upload several examples or quotes that you want viewed and have the people you share it with choose their favorite or the one they have a connection to and then make a comment about why they made that choice.  An image could be uploaded and then captions for the image could be added as comments.

I see so many possibilities for this. What could you do this?

Terri Brines and Debbie Perkins are instructional specialists with the eMINTS National Center.