Any chance I can get to have a peak in to how my colleagues are using technology to enhance their practice is a grand opportunity. Rarely do I pick up something new to add to my toolbelt on a whim. These decisions aren’t made lightly. I like to know how intuitive and easy to use the tool is, what the pedagogical ties are, and what possible challenges could arise.
Recently I participated in a web tool show and tell of sorts where some amazing teachers shared a single gem from their routine. I came away with a handful of new and potentially powerful ideas. Below are a few.
I began with my experience using the iPad app Explain Everything. I like to describe it as a screencasting tool that’s like Powerpoint on steroids. Users are presented with a smooth interface with a whiteboard screen and a myriad of tools to use. The ability to simultaneously annotate and narrate images, videos, and documents, and eventually share with an audience, creates some unique opportunities for students to reflect on their learning.
I have used Explain Everything in a bunch of ways but I specifically shared three that have had some tremendous success. First, I use the tool to flip my classroom. Videos I am able to create are more engaging than if I merely recorded a lesson or discussion. Further, the depth of detail and breadth I am able to cover in a short timeframe (usually 5 minute videos) due to the many functions the tools provide is a huge benefit.
Second, students are able to use the tool to reflect on their own work. Whether it is a photo of their learning, a video, or a pdf, students record their reflections and post to our class Youtube channel. The amazing thing is that students who are typically more shy and quiet in class tend to openly share using this format. The ability to speak alone and to record/listen/rerecord provides a safety otherwise difficult to create.
Third, students use it to create screencast presentations reflecting a project or research they have completed. These screencasts are ALWAYS more creative, engaging, and thorough than the traditional student presentation in front of a class.
A colleague than shared how they use Explain Everything in kindergarten and primary classes in a single iPad setting. One great example of how this is being used is with regards to assessment of oral language. Students record their voice as they read out letters and words they have written on the screen. Specifically there has been some great success with ELL students who show tremendous growth over time and can use the tool to reflect on this growth. Further, the class is using the tool to add images to folk tales they are studying. Collaborating on what images should be used and working together to incorporate them in to the story is proving to be an engaging and meaningful process.
A cool take on digital storytelling, a colleague shared how they are using Instagram as a tool to reflect on learning. The premise is to create a 15 second Instagram video showing 5 slides/images for 3 seconds per slide. The product is a short, concise, digital representation of what the student deems best reflects their work. Check out this take on The Godfather Part 1:
Next a colleague shared how they are using Freshgrade as a digital portfolio to create access for parents to see their children’s learning and have student observe growth over time. I was really impressed with the functionality of Freshgrade. The app feature allows for seemless syncing from device to platform. Further, the interface is incredibly user friendly. Images, text, and video all flow nicely and create a really snazzy chronological reflection of student work. Teacher, students, and parents can all be granted access to this content in a secure manner and are able to comment on the artifacts creating a deeper layer to the student’s learning than just a bulletin board of sorts.
Other web tools shared were Desmos, Padlet, and Google Classroom all of which gave me some amazing ideas.
I found this show and tell format extremely useful. Sharing time was about 5 minutes and the tools discussed all seemed to pedagogically jive with what I am doing in my practice. I love the image I have used to introduce this post. Bill Ferriter speaks to the importance of how our networks are reflections of us. I think the above web tools allow me to model for my students how we can create meaningful connections between our learning and the world around us.