Well done, ToonDoo, well done.

So at least three of my seniors were honored as Editor’s Picks in ToonDoo and each time, I was concerned about the comments left by “the public” when they published their cartoons. Well, earlier this month, ToonDoo announced a new option for publishing toons, the opportunity to keep them “private” and share just with a select group of people. I look forward to trying this new option with my students and as they can then have the option of opening their cartoons to potentially crass comments from “the public” or keeping their cartoons private and only sharing them with our selected audiences. Especially as they are still students, I definitely appreciate the options.

Old Fashioned, Low-tech Cheating

So what can help kids cheat? We now know the list includes cellphones and iPods, but I was reminded toward the end of school that the cheating aid can be as simple as the money in a wallet. My seniors were taking an exam on the three branches of government and on the last page, I decided to include, on the last page after all of the content-related questions, pictures; pictures including the President, Vice President, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Capitol, both sides of the White House, and the Supreme Court. Apparently one of the White House views was a bit challenging for many of my students, in fact, as I was standing right in front of one student, he pulled out his wallet and tried to check the back of his money; when I inquired as to what he was doing and shook my head.

What’s the point? I guess there are several. First, students will use the resources they have available to them – high tech, low tech, or anywhere in between. Second, if students want to find answers to learn the answers, that is great (I’m not a very high person on earning “points” for points sake) but we need to work on helping them to place a higher value on ethics in the workplace, in whatever situations they find themselves.

Reflecting on Toondoo

Have you tired Toondoo yet? A super user-friendly cartoon making site combined with my squirly seniors inspired me to set them loose with Toondoo. They each made a series of political or government-based cartoons, some about the Legislative Branch, some the Executive, and some about the government in general. They really enjoyed Toondoo and found it extremely easy to use. I even had two students who are more on the fringe than some, and they said a couple of times, “If school was always like this, I would like school.” So I thought that was pretty cool, and so did they. Turning the cartoons in was an interesting process, I chose to have them post them on our class wiki (I admit, I chickened out on having them post to a blog this time, but I think next year I will). Those who read directions did fine.

Once the cartoons were published, it was interesting to see that two of my students cartoons were selected as the “Editor’s Picks” for the day. My students noticed the first cartoon but said nothing until I mentioned the second. The student who authored the second cartoon was extremely proud that his work was on the front page of Toondoo, and his classmates were excited for him too. That was exciting to see.

I was disappointed to see that the comments left for the first editor’s pick student cartoon used a misspelling to leave a variation of swearing in their comments. I am sure I will write about that type of netiquette in a later post, but for now, I will just say that I am going to think differently now about how to best use these tools as I don’t want my students hurt, and we are part of a private religious school. I know the students did not say anything, but it bothers me.

Overall, I know I am a Toondoo fan. Check it out but know, as another blogger wrote a couple of weeks ago, it can be addicting…

The Guys Liked Gliffy

Every year as my 11th grade World Cultures class approaches the Israel/Palestine unit, I ponder how best to introduce the historical aspect of the region and this year was no exception. I determined long ago that lecturing about the early history does not capture the interest of my juniors; I cannot really say I blame them – I don’t think I really paid much attention to those types of lectures in high school either. So this year I decided to put together a computer-based activity where for the first part, students visited the BBC’s website about the Middle East and the history of Israel; it has a timeline with a written explanation of Israel’s history and another section with the history shown via maps and captions. Students were asked to explore one (or both if they so chose) and design their own timeline that helped them understand the background information of Israel/Palestine. First, it was interesting to see who selects the written timelines and who selects the maps, but it was not as interesting as my next observation: the use of Gliffy.

I cannot remember where I read about Gliffy, but whatever I read intrigued and inspired me to try it with my students so, earlier in the semester, I introduced them to Gliffy. It was still in beta and we had free access to a very user-friendly webbased diagram creator. At that point, all of my students were required to use Gliffy to create an illustrated timeline of events in Rwanda and Burundi. At the quarter break, I took a survey and several of my students said their Gliffy creation was the thing they were most proud of from that quarter.

Today I gave the option to my students to either create their timeline notes in their notebooks or use Gliffy. As I scanned the room, I could not help but to notice, the guys were the ones using Gliffy while the girls ( all but one) were writing in their notebooks. Interesting as in the survey, an equal number of girls stated they were proud of their Gliffy creations. Even so, today, the guys liked Gliffy.