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Prezi

Prezi is a fun alternative to Powerpoints. It is a dynamic platform for the students to engage with. Having them discover something, a new way to work, will get them excited about it and also force them to engage with the material, seeing as they don’t know how to work with it yet. They won’t be able to simply slap together a Powerpoint like they’re used to doing. This is a great new tool to use for oral presentations in the classroom.

Prezi is describe as an “virtual whiteboard” on their website.

(http://prezi.com/about/)

 It’s aims is to create a more engaging dynamic for presentations, allowing, for instance, students to talk WITH their classmates, instead of talking TO them.

There are many different fonts and functions for the students to play with. You can have your presentation zoom in and out bringing to different parts of your page and presentation instead of the typical page by page layout of Powerpoint. Like I just said, you can have it zoom in multiple times, going deeper and deeper into different sections of your point. You can also have it move and focus on different oatrts of the same page once zoomed in, without having to backtrack to the original page. This makes it all seem a lot smoother and professional, and will be fun for students to play with!

(http://prezi.com/6-mlygdgup4s/what-is-prezi-really-and-how-to-create-a-really-good-one/)

You can also add sounds, music, images and colorful charts that come in all shapes and sizes.

The only downfall is that you must pay to have access to the services.

WordPress

WordPress is a platform which allows the user to create his or her own blog. You can even create a website.

(How to create a website with wordpress)

This is a different and original way of getting the students interested in their work. You can simply have them create their own blog on whatever subject they want, or even an imposed subject, and let them explore the web and develop. Maintaining a blog will require for them to read and research, as well as write, practicing these facets of their English learning.

They can work at it from home at any time, they can even work on it from their cell phone with the app.

(The app)

You can also choose from many different backgrounds. And if you are more involved in the project you can even pay for some extra features.

(Different themes)

You can also add different media to it, pictures, videos, and more with links leading to the original website or captions under them. You can also link content directly from twitter or youtube.

The layout is incredibly simple. Everything is well indicated. But just in case, WordPress offers an online tutorial on its website guiding step by step.

(step-by-step)

Here is an online tutorial video (just in case!)

(Tutorial video)

Students will get to feel like their work leads to something palpable. They will get to see the fruits of their labor and take pride in their site. It also allows them to add personality and get involved in the project. You can also have them comment on each other’s blogs as an extra assignment, having them interact. This could lead to some problems, but generally if the teacher monitors the blogs the students should behave.

WordPress is another way of having the students practice without feeling like they are working!

WriteRoom; the minimalist

WriteRoom is a virtual tool with the purpose of facilitating focus when writing. Other tools, such as scrivener (see previous blog post) focus on organizing what has been written. WriteRoom, however, focuses on first getting the material out of your head and onto the page.

The basic idea behind the platform is to extract distractions out of the writing process. Most works intended for the classroom are not hand written anymore. This, although generally positive, does hold its own set of particular problems. The main hindrances is the distractions that come with the computer; games, internet, videos, friends, etc. It is also available as an app for iphone and other handheld devices.

(WriteRoom and Notational Velocity)

WriteRoom removes all of these elements and leaves the student alone with his screen. This way he can focus on his work. The distraction free area created in beneficial to both the creative and reflective process necessary for anything from novels, essays to research papers.

“But if, when it comes right down to it, full screen is your holy grail, and the ultimate antidote to the bric-a-brac of Word, then you must enter the WriteRoom, the ultimate spartan writing utopia.” — Virginia Heffernan, New York Times

(WriteRoom)

Microsoft word does not hide the tool bar and all opened programs and tabs. WriteRoom does not, however, allow for page layout or insert tables and graphs. This can be a negative for the writing process as a whole. However, WriteRoom focuses on the basic writing itself, somewhere between brainstorm and first draft. It is a minimalist program, simplifying the work.

(Going minimalist with my notes)

Google Docs; the collaborator

Google is one of the all-around great forces of the online world. Their grasp ranges from the original search engine to youtube; somewhere in the middle of that lies Google docs. This platform is perfect for classroom work of a collaborative nature, both in and out of the classroom. Its main benefits, being an online resource, obviously lie in its uses outside of the classroom. However, it can be used with great efficiency inside the class as well.

Google docs share a common online document with the members who are granted access to it. All members can modify or add on to the document simultaneously. This is wonderful for brainstorming. Typically, one student will be the “secretary” of the team and have to write down notes for the whole team, one idea at a time. In this case, all can add their own ideas by themselves, without stalling a teammate’s progress or flow of ideas. Also, you don’t have to make a mess of your idea sheet by physically erasing bad ideas and leaving stains on your papers.

(5 ways to use google docs in the classroom)

You can see what is being written instantaneously. Not only that, but you can also see who is writing. There is an option which allows you to associate a color with a teammate so his contributions will be in his color, making it easy to recognize who says what. In this way, it can become a chat room of sorts. You can also draw in the document as you would on a normal sheet, only much cleaner.

Obviously, being an online tool, its main asset lies in its ease of access. Students can all work on the same document from home while remaining in contact one with another. You can share thoughts and ideas in the document at any time, by-passing the hindrance  of schedules have on work rate.

(50 little known ways google docs can help in education)

 

icame, isaw, ipad

The ipad is one of the newest class members in schools across the world. However, this does not mean its acceptance is without resistance. New technologies are often ignored or feared (to a certain degree) by more traditional teachers who already have their routine well established. One of the reasons for this is the lack of knowledge; the lack of education. It would not be all that unlikely for students to be more accustomed to these new technologies than the teachers themselves. For instance, many younger kids are very well versed in the mysterious ways of the ipad. Luckily, there exists the internet. There are tons of websites and resources out there to help initiate us not only to the ipad, but to its application in a scholarly setting. (ipad in the classroom)

The risks are worth the rewards. There are many beneficial aspects to installing the ipad as a norm inside the classroom. First of all, it is far easier to carry than 10 different notebooks and an endless sea of sheets. The ipad is a great condenser. It centralizes all of the students’s notes in one place; binders are replaced by virtual folders. Electronic copies of your notes are also much safer than paper form. You can save them using programs such as dropbox or simply by sending them to yourself via e-mail. Furthermore, note sharing is also made less strenuous. A student can instantly have as many copies of his notes as he wants to share with his teammates, for instance. (much more eco-friendly as well.)

By getting kids used to newer technologies they will most likely have to keep up with in their future workplace, you simultaneously have them discover the many benefits of the online world. The internet is the new world wide library, making research much easier. You can also teach students by guiding them in their research, making sure to steer them away from undesired content and teaching them how to successfully navigate the web in the most efficient and purposeful way.

The novelty of the ipad in the classroom will be stimulating to the students who have grown bored of the standard paper form work and exercises. This is a new platform for them to express their creativity, enabling them to search and discover themselves in new ways.

Furthermore, the ipad contains a slew of interactive and educational games, apps and activities. (20 Great Classroom iPad Apps to add to your Collection) These can be offered as rewards since they are games, all the while having the students learn and keeping them immersed in an educative environment.

And just in case you still weren’t convinced, here’s some more!

 (50 resources for iPad use in the classroom)

Scrivener: a Scatterbrain’s Paradise

Scrivener is an application that is usually used by amateur and professional novelists and authors. Its main focus is helping writers structure their work. However, Scrivener can also be used for research papers and scholastic essays. The idea behind this program is to have a center where you have all you need for your work. It is essentially a management tool. (Scrivener)

You can have a virtual corkscrew notice-board to post your notes to in an organized fashion. You can store your research in a separate area than your actual work, all within the program. The left side of the window is composed of what is called the “binder”. Its function is to allow you to travel between the different sections of your work, your research and notes, amongst more.

You can break your work into different sections and work on them separately instead of trying to navigate through the full, sometimes overwhelming, bulk of your work. Once the parts are complete you can simply drag and drop them in their designated order. This facilitates browsing for correction and editing. You can also work on multiple sections simultaneously.

You can also do all of the usual; add tables and images, bullet points and footnotes, etc. (Scrivener Review)

Another interesting option offered by this application is the ability to add comments to your own text and easily recognize them as being separate.

Most work engines are designed for a continuous linear work flow, passing from page to page in their right and numbered order till the work is over with. Scrivener makes it easy to backtrack and find organization in the chaos of your own individualized writing process. You can also add a synopsis for each part of your work and each index card pined to the notice-board. Once this is done, you can organize the order of your different parts without having to opened and read them, based on your synopsis.

You can keep anything you want on Scrivener; PDF files, images, web pages, audio files and even movies for your research. Moreover, you can split your page to have both your research and information on one side and your actual work and writing on the other. You can also view multiple parts of your work at the same time to make connections.

Scrivener is the ultimate organisation tool for writer; ranging from stand-up comics and fiction writers to scholars and researchers.

Skype: a Connection Tool

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Skype is yet another internet tool that is often neglected or totally ignored in the classroom. There are many advantages to maximize and reinvigorate classic pedagogical methods for today’s students. For instance, you can pair up with a classroom from another school and have students prepare oral presentations on a subject and share what they’ve worked on with a new public unfamiliar to the subject. (50 Powerful Ways To Use Skype In The Classroom)

The novelty of it will add excitement to the classroom. It is an opportunity to renew the all too common practice of oral communication in the classroom. kids already know most other students in their classroom and have nothing to ask them. This gives them the opportunity to revisit important basic questions such as asking someone their age, name, hobbies, passions, etc.

Furthermore, kids can learn about foreign cultures in a first-hand manner. They get to see the people and hear what they have to say about their own country instead of a teacher who’s never been there before.

Skype is also an interesting addition to the classroom because it omits the need of physical transportation. A teacher can set up online meetings with the students and their parents from home instead of driving to school. You can set up interviews or presentations with special guests from around the world with fair ease, without them having to physically travel.

(Cool Ways to Use Skype in the Classroom)

Skype actually has a section designed to help teachers use its interface. It includes demonstrative videos. (Skype in the classroom)

To ignore the ever growing opportunities for a pedagogical renewal (see revolution) offered by the online world is, for lack of a better word, blasphemous.

Twitter for Teachers

tweet

The simple nature of twitter (140 character posts) makes it a great platform for easy, small games for younger students. Having them breakout of the standard “question and answer on a sheet of paper” form will get the students excited about doing their homework. You can create small weekly exercises, or full term projects. For example, you can use twitter’s hash tags to have the students follow a certain topic. They will have to read up on it. (Twitter in the Classroom)

To make sure they are doing the work you can have them re-tweet about the subject. You can also create your own hash tag subject for the students to write short 140 character texts about. You could do this once or twice a week, for example. This will also have the students familiarize themselves with the keyboard layout on a computer, which most writing is done on nowadays.

There is also the option for teachers to answer questions and be accessible outside of school hours due to the interconnectability of the online world.

(Twitter in the Classroom)

You can even create full term activities or graded projects. For instance, you can have the students follow a certain twitter (NASA, for example) and pick out a subject they find alluring from their tweets. You can then have them write a project based on the followed twitter.

The novelty of platforms such as twitter in the classroom creates room for freedom and ingenuity. There are no set standards for how to use it, or standard activities that are expected to do with twitter. Granted, there is a responsibility on the teacher’s side, but also freedom to be creative and breathe some fresh air into their teaching method, breaking the habit and keeping the students attentive and interested.

Youtube, the Memory of Education

Most of the young internet users are on Youtube for leisurely purposes. Despite the wealth of knowledge present on the site, most of it gets lost amongst the plethora of cute cats and people falling off bikes. Most teachers tend to stay away from this site apart from the occasional class viewing of videos. However, The potential that youtube possesses as a pedagogical tool remains untapped for the most part.

Even Youtube itself is making efforts to become more teacher friendly and accessible for educational purposes. There exists a section of Youtube aimed at facilitating its use for the classroom. (Tips for Teachers Who Wish to Use YouTube in Classroom)

Furthermore, the site can be used as an archive system. You could record the classes with a camera placed in the back of the room and put the videos up on a Youtube account created for the class by the teacher. This way, students can go back and have a new platform to experience the knowledge, a different access. This could be good for people who are more likely to soak in knowledge through an auditory form of learning. The students could have audio support as well as a different kind of visual than their written down notes or school manual; they can see and hear the teacher as many times as they want. If the students didn’t hear something in class, or they missed the class completely, they can now find it on the teacher’s created Youtube channel. (The Teacher’s Guide To Using YouTube In The Classroom)

Given, problems could arise. For instance, some students might be tempted to skip out on class if they can just watch it from home later that evening. However, this can be countered with other simple methods such as giving bonus participation points for presence and attending the class.

Moreover, it may help in instances where the teacher might have made a mistake teaching the class and not have noticed, and later penalizes the students on the exam for giving the wrong answer which he accidentally taught them as being the right one in class. Everybody has already experienced or heard of this happening. By having the classes put up online you could double check and rectify the situation.

Ultimately, Youtube can serve as an efficient backlog for knowledge, and a great study guide. When midterms or finals come you get to relive your classes a second time if you wish to do so. The moments are encapsulated in video form, which is the essence of youtube.

Facebook as a pedagogical tool?

The 21st century techno-savvy students who are currently in classrooms share a near symbiotic relationship with the technology surrounding them. The alarm on your phone rings to wake you, you pick it up to stop it and think you might as well check your texts at the same time; you get up and check your Facebook before checking your hair in the mirror.

These students are on Facebook practically every single day. Using Social media outlets such as Facebook can grant teachers a previously impossible access to their students, as opposed to this contact being reserved to the classroom only. There’s no more reason for students to “forget” about the short essay they had to write over the weekend if they get daily reminders of their homework on a Facebook page created by the teacher for said purpose. (50 Reasons to Invite Facebook Into Your Classroom)

Another issue is that of privacy. Students can contact the teacher without everybody else in class being aware of it. This eliminates peer pressure. The privacy that comes along with the private messaging option found on Facebook allows students to be more at ease with voicing their opinions or concerns honestly. This goes both ways. Teachers can talk to the student and the student alone if they wish to.

Having the students use Facebook for practical reasons instead of leisurely can help make them conscious of the responsibility that comes along with their “freedom of expression”. With Facebook they can learn not only to use a technology crucial to many lines of work, but figure out how to interact with one another on their own. In other words, students can help each other mutually outside of the classroom with much more ease. In class, the teacher is often busy, and the students must follow guidelines and “class etiquette”. If the teacher is occupied with some other task at hand, and the students are doing individual work and not allowed to talk with one another, they cannot progress.

Granted, some issues may arise and Facebook could be problematic at times. There is an adaptation process. However, if monitored and managed properly it can be a great tool to instill a sense of responsibility within the students, and create voluntary cooperation amongst them and their peers. Also, with their teacher on Facebook it may help them realize the diligence that should be exerted in regards to their online life, now being aware of who can see them. (The Benefits of Using Social Media in the Classroom)