10 – TeachersFirst, teachers also need to learn

WHAT

There is no perfect tool, computer application, book, technique, teacher or student. By doing this blog, I try to give my readers different ideas of applications, web tools and technologies that can be used in the classroom. But my main goal is to do a deeper thinking about these technologic tools’ pedagogical relevance. To do so, I look at different reviews, comments, blogs, instructional videos, I try tools and build my own idea. I want to share my critics and analysis with you to be able to, maybe, bring your perception further.

TeachersFirst happens to be my favorite tool found over the web so far to combine technology and education, and one of my main inspiration for this blog. TeachersFirst, as its name suggests, is a tool for teachers. It is a free, advertising-free teacher resource web site offered as a service to teachers by The Source for Learning, (non-profit learning and technologies corporation). TeachersFirst is sharing the best of the web for teaching through “value-added” reviews, original content, and practical implementation and practices ideas.

 

HOW IT WORKS

To use TeachersFirst, you do not need to sign up, but I suggest you to; it is free and you can have easier access to personalized content. You can customize your “My Start Page”, mark resources as “Favorites” and “tag” them to retrieve them easily, share experiences, comment resources and rate them. (Which I did not do because I do not have the chance to experience apps with actual students). It also offers you a “Teacher’s Public Page” on which you can create schedules, share with your students and show your “Favorites” TeachersFirst activities or reviews (access my TF public Page here). To do so just click on “add to my favorites” while looking to an article. The search box allows you to search by Grades, Subjects, Keywords and Phrases. The search engine is really powerful and will find 99.9% of the time something related to what you are looking for.

HOW IT WORKS

To use TeachersFirst, you do not need to sign up, but I suggest you to; it is free and you can have easier access to personalized content, customize your “My Start Page”, mark resources as “Favorites” and “tag” them to retrieve them easily, share experiences and comment resources and rate them. (Which I did not do because I do not have the chance to experience apps with actual students). It also offers you a “Teacher’s Public Page” on which you can create schedules, share with your students and show your “Favorites” like TeachersFirst activities or reviews (access my TF public Page here). To do so just click on “add to my favorites” while looking to an article. The search box allows you to search by Grade, Subject, Keywords and Phrase. The search engine is really powerful and will find 99.9% of time something related to what you are looking for.

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Use the resource (why):
You may want to use TeachersFirst to help you find educator-reviewed web resources (over 12,000 reviews), lesson plans/units, and ready-to-go content you can share on student computers, a projector, or interactive whiteboard, and special topic collections of web resources.

tips: if you do not find a specific tool, you can also use Google search engine and type ‘’TeachersFirst.com + What you are looking for’’ it’s probably there somewhere 😉

 

TeachersFirst, the resource, is more efficient being a technological tool (web) than paper. The web gets the distribution cheaper, the resource bigger, and the access easier. As new tools appear every day on internet, Teachers First’s content needs to be updated frequently and the website allows instant diffusion. The web also allows teachers to join a community for them where they share experiences, genuine ideas, feedback, and cooperation. This collaboration gives teachers the opportunity to create bigger and better teaching and learning experiences than alone. (Just like a big Teachers Jigsaw)

TeachersFirst is really rich and has an impressive variety of content available. The whole tool would require more than an article to review properly. The “How it is applicable to the classroom” part of this article focus on TeachersFirst’s “educator-reviewed web resources” feature.

The reviews of tool are written and edited entirely by experienced, professional educators. They include a description of the tool, its features and a quick tutorial on how to use it. The most important part is the “in the classroom” section. It gives ideas of activities and classroom applicability of the tool to inspire teachers. What makes their resources the best is that it includes a reflection on how a technology tool can bring learning further. It is different than other reviews on the web. It gives both practical application (activities) but it is also theoretical (why the tool use is relevant to help students to learn). It brings teachers to higher level thinking. It changes the perception of an educational tool to really make it a learning tool.

I often say that a tool is a tool, even if built for educational purposes. What makes it educational is the teacher and how he uses it. TeachersFirst is a tool that can help you in that process. It does not make activities efficient and relevant pedagogically, it helps you to think them this way.

Thank you TeachersFirst,
Good Luck teachers
Monsieur Blanchet

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9 – bubbl.us – mind mapping

WHAT

Bubbl.us is a mind mapping web application to create brainstorming graphic linking idea bubbles. Mind Maps can be shared with many users at once and using different sharing settings to work collaboratively.

HOW IT WORKS

To use Bubbl.us you need to create an account using your email, Facebook, or Google+. Once you are signed in, you can start to create mind maps, save them and manage them in the “Mind Maps” box. (Max. 3 with free account) You can click “Add Contacts” and enter mail addresses or Bubbl.us usernames of people you want to share mind maps with. You may manage them by group or classroom in the “Contacts” box to be able to share easily (using “sharing” button in contacts box) with all members of a specific group at once. While sharing you choose if others are allowed or not to modify it.

 

FEATURES

Bubbl.us has a really useful interface and functions. It has a “undo” button, a “select” function to choose many bubbles at once and move them, change their options, copy/paste them or delete them. Another interesting gadget is the “Fit” zoom option that gives the zoom the proportion that with fit your map bubbles. You can give bubbles any color you want with a full color pallet. The interface includes little tab that allow easy management, sharing and organization of different mind maps at the same time. You can copy bubbles from one mind map tab and paste it on another mind map on another tab. The “share” button allows to get a URL to share with anybody, members or not, in read-only mode, to access the mind map. (Just like I did here with mine). The free account does not support to export or import files, but you can save the mind map in .png format image file.

 

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HOW TO USE IT FOR THE CLASSROOM

Pedagogical possibilities of bubbl.us have been approved by many teachers. By itself bubble.us is concept organizing. Mind maps, in a web application or on papers are always useful for learning. Mind maps can always be used as a first step, to plan work or thoughts. This type of planning requires abstract thinking or help to “connect the dots” depending on the level of the learner. As the mind map creator is easy to use and really fast, students can follow their train of thoughts and insert elements as they come through their mind. Afterward, you can help them observe their thinking process as a whole and understand and learn the links now visually represented.

The option to share allows more than just sharing a mind map as it is. It allows collaboration. You can ask different students to cooperate in small team projects, analysing a part of text and create a mind map of different elements, then in whole group, ask them to explain what they got and combine it with other’s part to have a complete analysis of a text. This way, every team feels involved and apply themselves and, so, learn actively.

As a teacher, you can also use bubbl.us to create a visual representation of abstract or complicated elements. (e.g. short story elements) This way you structure your explanation, have a visual support and create a reference tool further available for students.

Free, great, easy tool

Monsieur Blanchet

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8 – Skype in the classroom – *in the classroom*

WHAT

Quick note: Skype is Microsoft’s VoIP software. Its’ main functions are free worldwide video and audio calling over the internet. Also to mention that you can use it for messaging and file sharing. Skype services are available on Smartphones, Apple, Windows and Linux computers, and even some videogame consoles. It requires a Microsoft or Facebook account to subscribe to the service.

Skype in the classroom (SITC) is an educational platform from Skype themselves. They created a community website to connect teachers around the world. The objective of SITC community is to meet new people, talk to experts, share ideas and create learning experiences with teachers from around the world.

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HOW IT WORKS

As a teacher, you need to create an account using Facebook or a Microsoft address. Once your account is working, you can search for different types of content. Skype lessons and Teachers can be used to find teachers that offer their teaching services over Skype. Guest speakers are ideas of conferences to organize or people to ‘’invite’’ on Skype for a conference. Collections are Skype favorite projects ideas and collaborations compiled together. You have a search bar that allows to search by keywords. The best thing for classroom application is to search “Project + whatever specialised feature you want’’. You will find other teachers with classrooms that want to collaborate with other teachers. When you find something interesting, you reply to a teacher request and get in touch to set up further projects or collaboration details. You can also “create a lesson’’, describe what you are looking for and receive other teacher’s response.

 

FEATURES

Setting your account, you can set your main subject to find more meaningful results. Also, time zone is asked. It is useful as I converts your and others’ availability time to see if a meeting is possible over Skype. The company also offer while subscribing to register to get a free teacher code to get Skype ‘’ad-free’’ version.

 

HOW TO USE IT FOR THE CLASSROOM

To use it in the classroom, you have to make sure every privacy codes and rules from your school are respected. You must also prepare the configuration and set-up in advance to be sure everything works. Once all of that is done, the successful use of the application depends on the project preparation. As an ESL teacher, this tool is really interesting. For example, a cultural project could be more than beneficial to students’ education. You could find a teacher of an English community that wants to learn about your culture and language. This way both groups prepare materials, presentations and do a research on their own culture. They present a part in their target language and the other in their native one. Students need to work hard on the project to present it to a real native speaker that is interested in what he has to say. At the same time students would learn about other cultures by other cultures and this is mind opening. You could also begin regular Skype meetings and associate them with a ‘’Skype Pal’’ from the other group.

The interest in these types of interactions for language class it that they talk to native speakers so they “do not have choice” to try the target language and to do their best to be understood. Also, they develop an interest in other cultures. It shows how a language can be useful and meaningful. It gives a concrete meaning to the school subject at large. Also, they may create an affective link with their pals and hopefully to the language. Human interactions should not be underestimated.

Monsieur Blanchet

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7 – SchoolTube – and if there was a Youtube for School?

WHAT

SchoolTube is a moderated video sharing platform, specifically designed for K-12 students and teachers; a moderated and “educational-reserved YouTube’’. Teachers and students can share videos. Students need their local teachers’ approval before completing their upload. In addition, videos are first approved by the website’s moderators before being available to public, or removed later. (Organizational accounts and websites monitors can be monitoring).

 

HOW IT WORKS

SchoolTube (ST) is a free service. Teachers can create a free account paired with their institution. (Or create the institution info-card school, like I did for my university) Teachers add students by sending them an email using the ST website. Students receive a link that allows them to create an automatically linked account with their teacher’s. To share a video, you simply upload your video file. You choose a title, description, tags (keywords people who would be interested in your video myth enter), category, and set privacy setting and you are good.

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Note: To link student accounts to yours you need to prove your age, it may be complicated outside US, but it is possible contact them, in this concern, to find a solution. (parents account also available but I did not try this feature)

 

FEATURES

SchoolTube allows to find demonstrations and lessons from other teachers and content from everywhere in the world. It is full of different educational resources and tags allow to search meaningful and related content to what you search.

ST also features private content possibility. You can set limited privacy settings to your school, class or people who you send video’s url to. You can even set a password-locked access for your clip.

ST is usually allowed by schools’ servers.

ST videos are accessible without registration and can be shared to other social media or seen by parents.

 

TEACHING APPROVED + PEDAGOGY

One thing you do not want as a teacher is to use SchoolTube to show another teacher doing classical teaching on the Interactive White Board to your whole class.

What you want is to extend your students’ learning experience, and that is what SchoolTube is for. Used properly, ST is THE kind of apps that justify the application of technology to education. If you compare ST as a database to traditional teaching resources (library, encyclopedia, etc.) ST is BETTER on many aspects. It is free. Anyone can register and access all the content instantly and everywhere. The database is huge.  There are over 500, 000 videos from students and educators and, as it is an interactive web community, new content is constantly added (+1000 video uploads per day). Research process on ST is easier.  With categorization and tagging you easily find if the information you need if it is available. The content will always be educational.

SchoolTube can improve learning. In a task where students need, at some point, to search for information and to learn by their own, ST becomes the vehicle of active research; students will search to find the right and relevant information they need. This way they use criticism and judgment, but also acquire and learn information in the process. The learning becomes active. It gives a feeling of autonomy, they learn in a ‘’autodidact’’ way, without an actual teacher with them. And the video media is relevant and meaningful to them; they “believe” in this technology.

 

As a Web 2.0 tool, ST offers you the possibility to get your students to feel engaged in their own and others’ learning. For example, in an assignment where they would have to create a teaching video. To share their knowledge in a video may require a higher level thinking. They need first to master what they want to teach to work the information with synthesis and make it meaningful and simple for others (demonstrating that they understood it well at the same time). The other important element of the 2.0 is that it is social. The pressure or motivating factor. Knowing that other students of their age may watch the product gives the task importance and may get them to work harder improving their implication in the learning process.

As a teacher, you may use ST to extend class material and prepare condensed and summarized information. You have the possibility to review elements you did not have time to see in class or incorporate resources and concrete elements (e.g. demonstrations, abstract concepts visualized, etc.) unavailable in classroom.

As ALL teaching apps, it’s a tool that, You may also think of the flipped classroom learning. You can use SchoolTube to center the learning on student. You may organize your classroom in different stations where students learn material with personal computers or IPads. With different SchoolTube videos in each ‘’learning stations’’ and teamwork recap you have them to work on new information. This allows teacher to spend less time being centered and demonstrating and more time as a presence in class and a help for students’ focus on learning. Many teachers find this pedagogy efficient. If interested on how to flip your own classroom, you might take a look at this document. Do not fear it, it is new but it is good.

 

Good luck, good work
Monsieur Blanchet.

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6 – Ipad

IPADS

Quick note:
The IPad is the Apple’s tablet computer that comes with ios (apple mobile devices operating systems). It works with a built-in battery and charged with a USB plug. Touchscreen, virtual keyboard, camera, microphone and accelerometers are its sensors. IPads connect through Wi-Fi and are synced with one Apple ID on ITunes (Apple’s software) with a computer (PC Windows or Mac OS). It has included applications an important number of other applications are available on the App Store (free or not).

IPADS NOT TEACHERS

To use IPad for education you always have to keep in mind that your first goal is learning, not using technology. Lots of applications available on the App Store are really attractive for teachers and education oriented, this development is great and it makes lot of resources for different needs from those of an activity in the classroom to those of a businessman

However you do not put the IPad in class to replace teachers. A good example would be the idea of comics discussed in the last article. An App like Pixton is great to include Cartoons in your project, but Pixton (create a cartoon) is not a project on its own, same thing with IPads.

THERE IS A WAY

Of course, IPads can be used in the classroom. There are tons of websites to find activities ideas including iPads or ways to apply it to education.  The crucial point to be efficient is in the teacher approach.

An important thing with classroom projects is the interest students the students have and the effort they put into it. This is where the IPads comes useful. If the project has a creative goal or concrete result such as web 2.0 contribution: blogs, virtual classroom, etc. (e.g. Edmodo) One of IPads most impressive features is how easily it can enable creativity. Students by themselves can create movie trailers, posters, create a report using their own pictures and sounds. They can be video editors, story writers, etc. The tools are often really simple and easy to use so that the creative process can be the focus and the product conception can be a simple IPad use. It becomes a source of motivation and brings students active engagement as many teachers report (see comments). In other words: The IPad tool gives the project meaning and concretion, students put more effort, they learn better.

The IPads are Wi Fi and a source of knowledge. If they need to know a definition or learn quickly about a subject they can find what they need over the web faster than you think. Not only is it a resources, it becomes a motivator and makes them feel independent. Not to forget that IPads are part of their daily life, it is new and cool; they believe in it as something “real”. The Wi Fi thing is also important when it comes to group work with all its different apps, you can share multiple types of content between IPads and create virtual environment (e.g. Edmodo) . With that in mind, you can require everyone to participate at some point in a learning process through IPads to give them feeling of accountability, responsibility or make them proud of what they do, even with more introverted students.

IPads are great in creative process and students’ creation. You can also use through the work process itself, and have them share their progress with peers or with the teacher to have frequent interactions and feedback. A good example is using a mind mapper, to plan a text, share the mind map and receive feedback to know if they are ready or on the right track.

Just make sure you don’t use it to replace the activity book (there are apps for that), and keep the IPad a magic tool. 

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5 – Pixton – Comics

WHAT

Pixton is a comic creator that allows to create comics using various editable templates, captions and objects. It is a web application available through your browser where you can do all the process from creation to sharing. This sharing aspect allows a ‘’remix’’ option where you can reuse work that other Pixton artists shared for this purposes or simply use templates.

 

HOW IT WORKS

You can create the ‘’account for fun’’ that is free, allows you to create Pixton comics with most features and to share it with who you want (or not). You can start with a template, do the remix of another artist or simply add caption by caption the way you want them to be. You choose through a large bank of objects, characters, backgrounds (or solid colors), you add speech bubbles and edit the text like you want. Once you are done, or want to continue later, you save it and when you are ready, you publish it. It gives you a link that you can then use to share, or, as a teacher, ask your students to hand you in as an assignment.

 

FEATURES

Pixton has many features and editable elements, I was surprise by all that you can edit and adjust to make it like you want while creating my Pixton cartoon below.

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-Edit each frame size, create as much rows and captions as you want and copy/paste elements or total frame to re-use it faster.
-Delete any elements or frame and use a reverse option.
-Edit bubble speech size, text size + fit text to bubble option
-Add all kinds of objects and edit their size, position, rotate them, etc.
-Use characters creator to modify everything from their shape and clothes to their eyebrows color.
– There are face expressions and body positions pre-sets to help you.
– You can save or publish your work when ready.

Publishing settings allow you to choose to allow ‘’remix or not’’. The free version does not allow private publishing or classroom managed sharing. But still, many teachers get great results with it as an extensive tool for learning. With the free version you can only see the comic on the website and cannot download it or print it.
-tip: Windows as a screen capture option that allows to capture whatever you see on your screen (a comic for instance) and save it as an image file. See more here

 

HOW TO USE IT FOR THE CLASSROOM & PEDAGOGY

The biggest pedagogical element of this tool is the process of comics’ creation which is not reserved to technological applications (You could do a comic on paper). But there are some plus to this application:
All of its options, editable settings, pre-sets, ease of use, etc. are really appreciated. They allow less pressure on skills such as artistic features and the ability to reproduce visually and it works. The attention can be given to production, scenario, and ideas. So I allows to focus more on content, and think of a way to represent an abstract idea visually rather than how (possible or not) to draw it for instance. Student’s creativity in storytelling (Get them more involved and motivated, get a better idea of what they can do, get them learning more) — if you use it as a final exciting step

Of course, it is well known, comics can be motivating to students, and as they don’t need drawing skills with this tool they can be more interested and apply more on the task (learning actively at the same time). Comics can be a great tool to develop skills or go through some applied reflection. As you have a constricted use of framed story with small texts, they need to work the information to show what is important and to a creative delivery work. While teaching elements of a short story: characters, themes, plot, etc. In an English classroom, you can ask them to create a deconstruction/summary of a story creating a frame for 5 Plot elements: Exposition, Crisis, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution. This way the analysis process has a concrete goal. Teach new vocabulary or grammar (verb tenses) asking to create a meaningful context around it to help learn and memorizing it.

The ‘’remix’’ option also allows students or teacher, to create comics with empty frames that other will remix by inserting elements. It will require understanding of the context to make a creative and logic story.

As ALL teaching apps, it’s a tool. I think that to use comics is a good idea to incorporate to learning process for summarizing, reflections on important elements and involving creativity. The application gets the comics creation faster, easier and focus on the content and thinking rather than the creation process.

 

Monsieur Blanchet

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4 – Glogster EDU – G-raphic(b)-logs

WHAT

Glogster is a web-based tool that allows to create interactive posters in an online form with multimedia content. Glogster EDU is specially designed for education, as opposed to the original Glogster.com being a social network. EDU’s interface is thought for classroom purposes and allows to create private network environment to share Glogs (graphic blogs)

HOW IT WORKS

Teachers can create a Glogster EDU account for free and create/add up to 200 students. Student’s accounts can be created by the teacher or by parents receiving a link and educator’s code via email. It ensures parental approval and parents usually like Globster as a learning tool. The teachers’ dashboard interface allows to manage students and create virtual classrooms. Blogs progression can also be monitored through it. You can create class projects (assignments) with descriptions and assign them to different classes. There is a notification system to alert students of new elements. (More features and students capacity are available by purchasing subscriptions)

 

FEATURES

A Glog can include a lot by incorporating all types of elements into the same visual space: links, images, text, videos, music, etc. Elements can be taken from internet, student’s original files, and even allows to capture sound or video directly from computer in the web interface.

Students can do long term projects and save their work by choosing if they are finished or not so they don’t have to publish it incomplete. A great point is that students can share their work with other students in a private environment making the task more concrete.

The interface for students is really user-friendly. All options are organized and labeled in a simple magnetic toolbox. Posters design is done in a free environment where you can move and resize everything really naturally. There is a lot of interesting tools such as speech bubbles, cartoon effects, picture editing, all easy to access for students and it offers lots of inspiring templates.

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HOW TO USE IT FOR THE CLASSROOM

There are lots of interesting ideas of activities to do with Glogster on the web and even a community of teachers sharing directly on Globster EDU blogs

Here are few examples:

–          Creation of ‘’visual essays’’ or summaries (visual interpretation of the main concepts of a text)

–          As they can include links and incorporate elements from the web, you can ask them to do comparisons of online content

–          Creation of an online literary magazine

–          Collective class-separated posters project

–          Presentation of a research project – or to create an extension for it

A good idea with Glogster is to start a new project each time you finish a unit. This way students can access and review their own work (and unit) later whiteout having anyone handing back sheets, documents or evaluations.

ALSO

Like any application to education, Glogster should be used through the learning process and not as a learning process. There are teachers that have found Globster projects too demanding and some found bugs but most of comments that are found over the web are good experiences .

 

PEDAGOGY

Glogster can bring the learning experience further by ‘’extending your students’ intellectual reach and mastering the media to incorporate new technologies and richer messages’’ (teachersfirst.com). Classroom uses listed as examples in this article are thought this way. While they create visual essays, they use their skimming and summarizing ability to produce a creative content. The content is visual but as it is a Glog (easy to edit and use different type of content), it doesn’t not require artistic talent to be interesting and attracting. By comparing online content they have to and work on their critical and synthesis skills. It also takes part of their web education and judgement development. The sharing is also a good way to give meaning to the task and make it more concrete. They know their posters will be available for other students and that Glogs are meant to be interactive.

Glog is a great application for teacher with a full-of-feature free version.

As ALL teaching apps, it’s a tool that, in small time, can become a useful tool.

 

Monsieur Blanchet

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