Back to Blogging

I remembered my password! It feels like it has been forever since I have written a blog post, probably because it has been. We had a baby earlier this summer and leading up to that, things got pretty crazy, and only crazier after he arrived!  So why blog now? I found something I want to share so I’m going to work on getting back onto the blogging wagon. I still contemplate Twitter, but haven’t done much with my account yet…

TCI (Teachers’ Curriculum Institute) is a company whose ideas about student engagement I appreciate. I attended one of their workshops about 12 years ago and learned about a teaching strategy called the interactive student notebook (ISN). I was excited this morning when I found a digital copy of their ISN overview (even able to be downloaded as a pdf!) as part of their blog (which I didn’t realize existed either until this morning). It has great ideas for student activities which can be implemented in many content areas. Thanks TCI for sharing this great idea resource.

Information Literacy

The Information Literacy Game from the University of North Carolina Greensboro is a flash-based or printable board game for 1-4 players. Trivia questions focus on four categories: Searching/Using Databases, Cite Your Sources/Avoid Plagiarism, Library Wild Card and Choose Your Resource. Possible classroom uses: a “fun” homework assignment or if focusing on information literacy, students could play it head-to-head as a review of content.

Teaching Classroom Technology in a Teacher Education Program

Summer again brings the teaching of Classroom Technology for Saint Mary’s University. The attendees of this course are adult learners studying to get their teaching licenses. Yesterday my teaching partner Ben and I tried something new for us: we held virtual class, well, half of the class session was virtual anyway.  After meeting face-to-face from 9-11:30, we dismissed and learners scattered: to poolside, back yards, comfie couches, anywhere they wanted to be. We then showcased some free virtual meeting spaces, some synchronous, others asynchronous. Those that were highlighted included:

1. The ever-popular TodaysMeet. It was new to our learners and they had great ideas for its use in the classroom: brainstorming, back-channeling during a video in class, small group project communication, start-of-class Q&A or prompt and more. The ability to save the transcript of the chat was also a positive.  Concerns expressed included the lack of moderation and how the comments stream together without the ability to control pace or order/threads. Some quickly took to the Twitter-style @whoemever to direct responses. It was  a good introduction to the tool.

2. Twiddla was our second virtual stop. Also intended for synchronous use, this tool was fun to explore with our learners. The only frustration seemed to be if people cleared the board of writing before someone else was ready for that. We liked that no account or download was needed. We were able to mark up images, the blank board, documents, webpages (though that feature was a little sketchy for me using a Chrome browser, worked swimmingly with Firefox, though), and have a text-based chat going on the side. Save the meeting as you go to record progress. A fun tool to explore with great potential for things like: group diagramming in science, timelines in history, and editing of work in English.

3. The third tool we introduced was eBoard. I first learned about eBoard when I was in grad school and we were to make digital meeting spaces so it has been around for a while. Easy to use (like a collection of digital post-it notes), eBoard is an asynchronous meeting tool. As it wasn’t as interactive/flashy as drawing all over each other’s work, I fear the flexibility of this tool may have been overlooked, but I still like it.  30 day trial boards are free and multiple boards can be created to leave messages, discussions, links and attachments for visitors of the eBoard.

4. was next. Quick and easy to start a board, users can share links, ideas, images, on a virtual corkboard. Faster than eBoard to post, but didn’t appear to support the sharing of files, just ideas and information via a URL.

5. AnyMeeting was great. A lot like Go To Meeting, we were able to share our screens, video and audio with up to 200 people at a time (we only had 20 so we were well under that quota!). The screen was passed to one of our learners and he did a spectacular job sharing a favorite web resource with the group. Impressively robust, this was a great virtual session.

6. Our last virtual meeting tool was Vyew. A little clunkier than some of the others, but the features were similar. One drawback was that only  10 could be in a space at a time and we had 20 people, so two rooms had to be set up. Not as much fun, but if you have a smaller group, this tool could be a go-to.

We will teach the virtual class again to our Monday sections of learners. There are 50 of them so we’re trying to plan out the best ways to best facilitate the larger group’s needs, but at least yesterday was a success and we’re looking forward to trying the virtual session again.

And we searched

My students have a habit of typing entire sentences into search engines, even Google (Ask Jeeves would be so proud). With that in mind, I set out to try to help them learn some tips for searching. I created this initial exercise. Most of the students did a nice job copying the questions into Google and hitting search. Their next task was to complete a reading focusing on the types of searches they were just asked to conduct, and followed up with this exercise which is almost identical to the first but asked them to utilize the search techniques addressed in the reading. Would you like to see the results? Many of them are posted here. I also asked my students to blog about the exercise. One of my students is really getting into blogging, you can read her thoughts about the exercise here.

I think I am going to incorporate an exercise like this into this spring’s classroom technology graduate class I teach for Saint Mary’s. Effective searching can help us all.