Archive for April, 2013


During my practicum with secondary 3 students, I assigned them an activity of song writing in teams of three and offered them to present their song either by singing in front of the class or by making a music video. My big surprise what was every team decided to make a video, even though it required more work. I understand that most of them weren’t comfortable with the idea of singing in front of the class, but I didn’t expect that they were that proficient with video technology and were interested in adding an extra value to their project by integrating videos effects, transitions, titles, etc. Also, they all have intelligent cell phone that can film in HD and some of them have standard video cameras.

After that experience, I’ve seen the student’s potential of creativity regarding videos and I told myself: What if they could be evaluated more often from videos? It is even easier to correct than oral presentation because we can watch them several times to be able to evaluate clearly.

As written in this article, using applications like iMovie with students strongly enhances motivation. I chose to write about iMovie because I am a Mac user and found out how great it is for students. I wrote previously about iPad apps in classroom and one other reason why I chose iMovie is that it is available on iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone and of course Mac computers. Apple present on this page the advantages of bringing iMovie to mobile devices. I am pretty sure that if you split students in teams of 3 or 4, at least of the team members has one of those devices. They can even film directly on those devices. That means that if they have those in class, you could have them make complete videos while staying in class! 

Teachers can also use iMovie to give lessons in class. It is a lot better than PowerPoint in terms of dynamism and it has the advantage to be accessible at home. It is easy to put a video on youtube that is available only for those who have the link. In other words, the video can be private for your students. This article explains that Youtube has become for students the first search engine for information. They can feel that their school lesson fits perfectly in their every day life. The link given above also gives others ideas for specific use of iMovie in classroom.

iMovie is super simple to use and provides a rich bank of soundtracks, video and sound effects and more. That makes the difference on a video and it makes it professional. Here are a few tutorial videos for using iMovie. 

I highly recommend using video software with students because I realized how much they enjoyed it and were good at it. iMovie is my pick for availability, quality and easiness, but other software can work just fine if you don’t like Apple Product.

(Here’s a funny video to convince you!) 

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Cell phones in classroom

ImageWhile tablets and computers are becoming more popular for school application, cell phones are forbidden in most classrooms. Benoit Petit, (https://twitter.com/petitbenoit) a teacher that I’ve seen in conference asked the following question to the audience: What is the difference between tablets and (intelligent) cell phones? In fact, both devices are very similar. They provide access to the Internet, can take pictures, notes, calendar entries and much more with the apps. Another question he asked was: what are the pros and cons of using such devices in classroom. Surprisingly, both pros and cons columns happened to be the same. For example:

Pros:

Allow students to take picture/film (good for quick note taking)

Provide access to the Internet (easy way to get information and to communicate)

Cons:

Allow students to take picture/film (some teachers don’t want to be filmed)

Provide access to the Internet (can be a source of distraction)

 

Then, the teacher gave some counter arguments for the cons.

Allow students to take picture/film (some teachers don’t want to be filmed)

– Today, there are cameras everywhere: In schools, on the street, in public buildings. And pretty much every body has a cell phone outside of class and could film you whenever they want. It is a new reality and accepting that could be a good improvement for classroom. Students could film an important passage in class that they could watch later so they don’t forget. Also, it is easier to control cellphones in class if they are not hidden. Students would simply have to let their phones on their desk and ask if they are allowed to film something or if they can take a picture of the homework assignment written on the board.

Provide access to the Internet (can be a source of distraction)

– Students who are not attentive in class can either gaze at the window, draw in their books and even sleep. Those are the same students who will use their phone to play games or to do anything else only to forget about what is going on in the class.

I agree with his arguments and believe that cell phones in classroom are becoming a new reality. Teachers must not ignore them or forbid them, but they must take advantage of this situation. On top of that, it is free for schools because students already have their own devices.

After the presentation, I investigated a little bit more about different application of cell phones in classroom and found out by reading this study that an increasing number of teachers use cell phones for classroom activity. 

One interesting application that I have found on this website is to use cell phones to get students feedback from voting polls. They suggest using the free website Polls Everywhere to do organize classroom polls. It can either be used for feedback, trivia answers, surveys and more. Socrative is another application for voting polls well explained on this blog article.

This great article lists 40 ways to use cell phones in classrooms. A few of them that have caught my attention were using the camera to film school projects and Google maps to help students with geography. In fact, the possibilities are almost infinite with a little bit of creativity. Let’s not fear this technology and start using it for the best !

 

 

 

death_by_powerpoint1

Death by PowerPoint… Also called the triple P (PowerPoint Paralysis, as explained on this blog), is one of the main factors of boring classes. There was a time when basic PowerPoint presentations were impressive, but with the evolution of interactive and dynamic presentations, these old PowerPoint presentations start to seem be old had. However, I think that Microsoft PowerPoint is still great software and can produce interesting presentation. The problem is that it has been misused. Many teachers simply put their course notes in a PowerPoint document in order to read them on the board. In this kind of situation, PowerPoint is used as a disguise and does not add any value to the content. I understand that it is an easy way to avoid giving paper notes and to easily slide different pages of notes, but what I suggest is trying to add elements that will truly be able to catch students’ attention and support their interest.

I read a great article written by Lisa Nielsen that shows a research made on some students. They had to listen to a video showing a ‘boring’ PowerPoint presentation and tell how they would feel if they were in this classroom. Their answers were:

  • I would feel I should just be able to read that paper to myself somewhere more comfortable.
  • I would feel bored to death.
  • I would feel wonder as to why I bothered coming to class.
  • I would feel like I was suffering.
  • I would feel like my time would be better spent reading a book on my e-reader.

The first answer is my favorite because I, as a student, had this reflection many times. Often, teachers will accept to send their PowerPoint to their students via Internet. If the PowerPoint is only the course content with a background, then students can easily believe that going to the lecture is unnecessary. On the other side, if a PowerPoint presentation is made interesting (by using tips like these), most of the information should be told in class and the PowerPoint should only by there to support course content that is taught orally.

Some teachers may say that they don’t have enough time to create good looking and relevant PowerPoint. My answer to them would be that there are several websites where teachers share their own PowerPoints presentation. For example, this page gives a bunch of presentations for English learners (adverbs, descriptive writing, adjectives, idiom, nouns, etc). On this kind of page, English teachers can find almost anything they need for basic content.

Of course, new tools are available to make great presentations and I’m the kind of person who likes to experiment new technologies, but for teachers who do not want to learn to use new software, I recommend visiting websites that gives advices for good presentations. Once again, here’s Lisa Neilsen blog link, one that is highly relevant.

Graphix comic builder

Image

There are only a few events that I clearly remember from elementary school and one of them is the visit of a professional comic book artist. He did a presentation about his job and showed us some of his work. After the presentation, that man gave our teacher special cartoon paper so that we can work on our own comic page. I had a lot of fun doing that and today I can see how beneficial such an activity can be for students. It engages them into an artistic activity that lets them practice their story writing skills as well as their summarizing skills. It is now possible to do that kind of activity with students directly on computers.

I can’t say that doing this activity on the computer is better than on paper, but I think that it develops different skills.  While a paper comic is good for arts and craft skills while a digital one is good for layout skills. I remember that the school had to buy special paper for that and we had one page for each student. Because of that, we couldn’t make errors because we had only one chance. One good thing about using computers is that students can experiment with different tools in order to create a comic that they will be proud of. On top of that, it is free and avoids wasting paper. It is also fair for students who have difficulty with drawing. Those were the main differences. Their writing and summarizing skills stay the same for both ways.

The first website that I found for that kind of activity is from the game section of Marvel Comics’ website. Click here to try it. I wanted to write my blog article about that website, but I realized that girl students may not like it. Also, with the Marvel ‘s comic creator, you can only use Marvel heroes and I believe that it is not great for students’ creativity. I liked the simplicity of it though. I would recommend it to my students who would have liked the activity in class using another website if they want to make one at home about superheroes. This blog article is about different comic creators to use in class and agrees that the Marvel one has these limitations.

After reading different blog articles such as this one, I chose to use Graphix comic building with students. Graphix is made by Scholastic and consequently has a pedagogical approach. It is easy of access because unlike most of the other comic builders, you don’t need to subscribe with your email address. You only have to go on the website and start creating. Graphix offers three different styles for the variety of interest of students: Amulet (Medieval style), Smile (Social style) and Bones (Dark forest style).  Those styles come from actual Scholastic books, so if you can have your students read these books before, it could help them getting ideas to start. Graphix is easy to use and offers various layouts and characters. Even more, if students are done with their comic page, Graphix provides tutorials about comic book drawing and information of different comic book authors and illustrators. Here’s a video that shows what professional comic book artists think about the benefits of using Graphix.

Other websites can do pretty much the equivalent, but I found them less easy to use and a lot of them required subscription. Message to teachers: use the platform you want, but you definitely have to try that kind of activity with your students!

 

 

ImageThere is a new technology called “cloud computing”. This technology is available online as a storage space where users can store files and share them. Once a file is saved on the cloud, it becomes accessible from any electronic device connected to the Internet. Google Drive is one of the cloud-based networks that are available for free with a limited amount of storage space. This is a short explanation video about cloud computing that is understandable and truthful. Actually, it is explained by students!

A new reality

Cloud computing is the new thing for companies or even for schools. It enables companies to get rid of the physical servers and at the same time, it allows users at home or in schools to have access to a free cloud-based server. Google Drive is one server that has made it easier for everyday users. Here’s a page from the official Google Website that summarizes the different features of Google Drive.  Needless to say, a lot of teachers have started using Google Drive in their classrooms in order to communicate and share files with their students. Shelly Terrel is one of them and she wrote an interesting review on the different tools provided by Google on her blog.

Knowing that a lot of students have access to intelligent cell phones, tablets or laptops, I think it is good to provide access for them to the course content anytime on their electronic device. By content, I mean homework, course notes, readings, etc. One great feature of Google Drive is that students can also publish their own files to share with other students. I think it is great for collaborative work. One of the major problems of teamwork is communication and with a tool like Google Drive, students can exchange files with their teammates. It is also a way to have them hand out their assignments without wasting any paper.

Many extras

In addition to cloud basics, Google Drive has many other features that I find useful for teachers. I learned a few of those features for this website. It is oriented for teachers who want to use Google Drive with their students. Google Drive enables you to share videos, surveys, slide presentations and more. I would use the video option to have my students interested in the subject that I am about to cover, the survey option to have them give anonymously their opinion on discussions that we have had in class and the slides option to allow them to have access to what has been taught in class.

Back-up

This section is only for teachers. Teachers spend so much time building activities on their computers and cannot afford to lose those files because of a computer or hard drive problem. That is why I recommend any teacher who wants to have a back up of their files to use a platform like Google Drive. You can also buy extra memory and it is not that bad considering the price of hard drives. I think it is also safer up there in the clouds!

Conclusion

There are several ways for teacher to use Google Drive and I recommend it for any uses. It is a really helpful tool. Other platforms like Dropbox are also good for storage if that is the only option you need. If you want to push it a little further, try Google Drive for extras like slides, videos and surveys!