This post is in response to the Teacher’s Blogging Challenge Activity #6 Embedding Media. Back in December last year, Sue Waters asked “What tools do you like to use your students that can be embedded into blogs and other websites like wikis?”. She asked teachers to complete a Google form, itself embedded into the post, listing the top three favourite tools that we like to use with students. This got me thinking – “How can I narrow it down to three?” – and in response I wrote a post titled “My Top Ten Online Tools to Embed in Blogs and Wikis in 2010”.
So how do we narrow down the choice of tools? Firstly, we need to be looking at the learning outcomes we wish to achieve. Nobody who ever bought a drill actually wanted a drill did they? They wanted a hole! (Did I read that on Twitter recently?). So instead of recycling the previous post, “My Top Ten Tools for Embedding”, I will focus on the learning outcomes that can be achieved with each type of tool, when students use those tools to demonstrate their understanding and skills.
1. Text tools to Embed – Wallwisher, Wordle and Tagxedo
Wallwisher can be used to gain and store feedback from students about a range of questions. It can used like an exit slip – “What are three things you learnt today?” or to plan for future classes – “What didn’t you understand about today’s lesson?”. Wordle and Tagxedo can be used to find out what students already know about a topic and the relative importance of different terminology in their mind. Find out more about how these tools can be used with students in the slideshow presentation embedded above.
2. Concept maps – Bubbl.us and Freemind
I am a great fan of mind-maps and have been using them since before my interest in web2.0 tools. Tony Buzan has been advocating the use of mind-maps for many years. His site lists the many benefits of mindmaps, which include reducing work load, increasing confidence, improving memorising and organisation and working more quickly and efficiently. So to find free, easy-to-use, colourful and accessible mind-mapping software on line has been fantastic. I use mind-maps to introduce a topic, giving students an indication of the scope of the unit of work and/or to summarize and revise a unit. Asking students to create their own mind-map helps them to make connections between concepts and organise their thoughts. By analysing the words students use and the connections between them, a teacher can determine how thoroughly a student grasps the concept. The image above is a screen shot of Rachel’s (Year 8, aged 13) mind map about Simple Machines. It clearly shows that Rachel has a good understanding of the different types of simple machines and gives examples of each type. She knows that there are three different categories of levers and that ramps and wedges are different types of inclined plane. I would be asking her where a ‘screw’ fits in and for a verbal explanation of how each machine reduces the force required to do work.
3. Audio Tools – Audacity, Podcasting, Voicethread
Recording audio allows students to practise reading, speaking and listening skills. In most cases, students should write a script prior to recording their voice, to ensure they can speak clearly, without hesitating and cover all the important information. If they are recording an interview, they should have thoughtful and informed questions to ask of their participant. An exception might be if students are asked to briefly record their observations of a science experiment or quick “vox-pop” type recordings, for example. Audio files are usually uploaded and shared as links, rather than embedded in edublogs and globalteacher blogs. Although, I am rather envious of my friend Jess’s blog, Technolote, with her ability to embed Soundcloud files. Audio files can be used as an alternative to text with students who have reading/writing difficulties and are great for younger students and language learners.
4. Digital Storytelling and Video tools – MS Photostory, Windows MovieMaker, YouTube, TeacherTube, Kahootz, Pivot
As with audio, students should write a script and carefully plan a storyboard prior to beginning recording. It helps if students are provided with a rubric and perhaps a past student example of the work required. If you can discuss your expectations with students prior to them starting work, you are less likely to have students waste time down the wrong track. Whether students use photographs, video footage or animations, they should keep the message concise, make sure the sound recording is clear (don’t try to record outside on a very windy day!) and be aware of copyright issues. The 60-Second Science Video competition was a great opportunity for students to produce a short video about a science concept of their choice. Creating a video requires students to think carefully about how they wish to present their information in a way that engages their audience.
5. Surveys, Quizzes and Polls – Google Forms, My Studiyo, Polldaddy
If students can create a quiz, they can be developing a much deeper understanding of the topic than by completing a test on the same subject. They have to identify the important information and write the questions as well as knowing the correct answers. “MyStudiyo” is a fun tool for students to use to create their own online, interactive quizzes, using images and text, very quickly and easily.
Polls and surveys allow teachers to find out about their students and allow students to gather data about their peers. You can see an example of a survey I created using Google Forms on the “Survey” page of this blog. Creating a survey like this is quick, easy and very useful to get information from students at the beginning of a new year.
First sign up with your gmail address (I recommend all teachers and students have a gmail account) and select “Google Documents”. Then click on “Create New” >> and select “Form” in the drop-down box. You will then be able to type in the question and choose whether how you would like the questions formatted – multiple choice, checkboxes, short text response or paragraph text response, choose from a list, scale or grid.You can add as many questions as you need (unlike SurveyMonkey, which has a limit of ten quesitons with the free version) and edit as required. When you have completed the form, you are given the option to send as an email or embed into web page. The embed option gives you a code, which you can copy and paste into the “HTML” window of your blog. Sometimes the size of the form may not align with your blog size, but the width and length can usually be adjusted in the code. Once students have entered the information, the data can easily be retrieved by going to the spreadsheet in your Google Documents.
I have found Google forms to be a very useful tool for collecting data for maths investigations (surveys for graphing and probability for example); self-assessment; for end-of-semester and year surveys of my teaching practise; for award nominations and for gathering preferences for activities for school camps and excursions.
How do you think you can use embedded mindmaps, audio, video, quizzes or surveys in your class? How do you think your students can benefit from using embedded media in their blogs? Sue Waters surveyed 8 and 9 year old students and found out about the media they like most to embed on their blogs, which she wrote about in this post, “BeFunky, PhotoPeach and SketchFu – It’s what Student’s want to do!”.