Once Upon A Time There Was a Bird Named Storybird!

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I remember when I was about 6 or 7 years old, my sister’s godmother gave to my sister, my brother and I three books about three different topics. Mine was about going to the zoo! If I remember so well those books it’s basically because my sister’s godmother had taken the time to include our names in the stories, actually WE were the heroes of the stories! It was awesome! Imagine, you are 6 years old, you barely know how to read and you see your name everywhere in a book, don’t you think that it gives you the desire to read more? In my opinion yes and that’s exactly what Storybird does!

For those of you who think that my previous explanation of what Storybird is, wasn’t that clear, here’s a better definition of this wonderful software. As mentioned in web in classroomStorybird is a collaborative story telling resource that offers to its clients a multitude of preconceived templates and images that can be modified to create all type of length stories. After having been written, those stories can be printed as real books, saved to be privately read or published on  Storybird‘s online library, which make the stories available from all around the world.

According to some teachers such as Stephen DavisStorybird can be used in many different writing assignments. Teacher can ask their students to write traditional essays and then, transform a part of their essay in a Storybird or students can be asked to first take a look at what is offered on Storybird, then write a short essay and then, transform it into a big Storybird book. Another interesting possibility is to use this software as a platform for a group essay. Each student can be asked to write a part of a story and then, the entire class book can be published and made available for the parents and the students!

Another very interesting use of Storybird, proposed by  i learn technology is to integrate personalized books as reading assignments. By creating books especially for the students, the teacher increases the chances of catching the interest of his or her students and it helps them getting better at reading.

Even though Storybird presents many benefits, used as assignment or project platforms it can also have negative impacts on the students. First, it can add work to the students, which could discourage some of them who had difficulties in traditional assignments. Moreover, not all the students are good with computers and having to work with those devices on a daily basis can demotivate the ones having more difficulties.

Considering all the pros and cons, using Storybird in a classroom can help students get interested in their task, but it has to be used carefully in order not to get them bored by the use of software like Storybird or submerged by technology. Personally, when I’ll have my own groups, I’ll try to integrate this wonderful software at least once a year!

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A Blog about Blogging… That Seems “Bloggy”!

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Each and everyone has already heard about blogs and blogging, am I right? But how many of those people really know how to blog, what are the standards, what are the benefits of blogs in people’s life, or even how blogging can be introduced in classrooms? Not much hein!? I, personally, didn’t know much about blogging only couple of weeks ago! Actually, I was putting my sources at the bottom of my articles and giving my texts an academic look,  pretty embarrassing isn’t it? Okay, maybe not that much! Anyways, the point is not there! Today, my point is that there is not enough people aware of all the benefits of using blogs in educational and academic environments so let’s try to see together how blogs can be integrated into high school or even elementary school syllabus!

First, let’s take a look at some of the major benefits of using blogs in classrooms:

1. It gives an audience to the students and their works

Like I mentioned in one of my previous blogs, when I was a student, the thing I hated the most was to write a text, do research or build a project just for the purpose of the course and to get a good grade. In my opinion, writing a text just because the teacher needs material to give you your score gives boring texts! This is where Blogs become interesting! with blogs, students know that other people (at least their colleagues) can go and check their blog, so not only the teacher is reading it.

2. It helps developing more than just one skill at the time

Because Blogs require the use of ICTs (Information and Communication Tools), integrating blogging in classes gives the opportunity to the students to develop those ICTs while working on their French or their English or even on a science or maths project. Moreover, what is interesting about blogs is that we can find articles about each and every subjects, and so, written by people from 8 to 88 years old! With a range of articles that big, it’s easy for students to find articles that can help them build their own which, indirectly, imporve their ability to analyze texts and pull out only what they need.

3. It gives the opportunity to students to get more independent

While they are working on their blog, students can work at their own rhythm have the entire responsibility of their own blog. By giving them this responsibility, the teachers help their students get more mature and more independent. Students have a specific amount of time to do their blog, they can finish it at home most of the time, so they have to manage their time more than if they where sitting at their desk in front of a piece a paper.

Of course, having students blog is not just useful. Indeed, like mentioned ehow, blogs can be difficult for the teachers to grade and each teacher must build his or her own rubric that can fit his or her blog assignment which can, for some teachers extra work they don’t want to go into. Another bad point of using blog assignments is that the teachers cannot really control the time they give to their students to do their assignment, text, research, and etc.

Now that we’ve taken a look at the pros and the cons of using blogs in classroom let’s end this blog with possible uses of blogs in the classroom! When I surfed on wikispaces I found that blogs could be used as group discussions or platforms where the entire group can share ideas, develop project together and etc. Blogs can also be used as writing assignment or even reading assignments when students have to go and find ideas or information on others’ blogs. Another interesting use of blogs in the classroom is the possibility of doing long term projects whether in team or alone about any subjects!

Wow you’re ready to integrate blogs in your classroom now (or yourself)! Oops I forgot to give you some blog sites! Here is a short list of different softwares. Have fun!

http://wordpress.com/

http://www.blog.ca/

When an Xbox Becomes an Educational Tool!

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Integrating video games in a classroom can seem to be completely crazy, useless and even distracting for most people, but few knows that those devices can represent great educational tools, interesting and interactive ways to have students to practice and can make them move and motivate them as well.

Let’s take a look at how those controversial devices or tools can be used in a classroom context. Video games can be used to teach some subjects or give new material to the students. These days, on the market, the number of educational video games has almost reached uncountable summits. You can find games about maths, French, English, sciences, geography, history and so forth. Of course, video games are more individual and can hardly be used by teachers to give new information to the students, but is can surely be used to introduce new material, to have students explore the subject themselves before teaching them directly the material. Video games can also be used to increase the students’ ability to work together and share. Actually according edudemic, “video games play a critical role in bolstering a child’s ability to socialize, learn, and grow”. In other words, video games can help more timid students to speak to others and share their knowledge in order to achieve a goal, finish the game or get through a level.

Another good use of video games in classrooms is the possibility to make students move and exercise in a school context. With all the devices related to video game consoles such as the PlayStation 3 Move, the Xbox Kinect and the Wii Fit, teacher can kill two birds with one stone by having their students moving while learning, or at least practicing, new theories. By making students move, teacher can have a better classroom management and it can also help the kinetic students to stay concentrated during a bigger amount of time.

A different advantage of using video games in classroom is the idea of reaching the students’ interests. Everybody knows it, 21st Century kids all, or almost all, have video games at home and enjoy playing on their consoles. By giving the students the right to play video games at school can reduce their impression of learning and it can help them stay motivated while doing their task.

One other interesting use of video games in educational contexts is, like mentioned on teach thought, helping students to know when to use what they have previously learned. For instance, because video games are unpredictable the first time you play, students have to choose which elements of their general knowledge to use and at what moment, which can help them do the same in their everyday life.

Moreover, like wonderfully stated on helium, teachers could also learn a great deal on how to teach by studying video games learning models, which could help them improve their teaching skills and build more interesting lesson plans.

Those are, in my opinion, the best ways to introduce video games in educational contexts. I know that for some of you, video games are still things to keep as far as classrooms as possible and it’s easy to understand why you think that. Video games can distract the kids, it can complicate the classroom dynamics because some students might always want to use those devices which could create problems when comes the time to give lecture classes. Video games could also create some altercations between students.

But to you people, I answer this! Video games are already more than present in children’s life, so why not use something they already know, master and love to educate and teach them? No truly good reason comes to my mind!

Google Drive: A Way to Increase Collaboration Between Students

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Since 2012, the Californian company Google proposes a cloud storage, file sharing and collaborative device called Google Drive. Before last Wednesday, I didn’t know a thing about this great tool. Actually, the only thing I knew about cloud storage was that it was a way to make sure that documents were saved somewhere other than on USB devices! I was far from thinking that a cloud storage service could permit free sharing between people and even collaboration just like Google Drive does. When I learned about all the uses of this device, I immediately thought of how this wonderful tool could be used in an ESL classroom. Let’s take a look at some of those possibilities!

When I took a look at what teachers were doing with Google Drive in their classroom, I found an interesting blog where an AP teacher was using this device as a platform for peer assessment and peer editing. While I was reading, I realized that often in my classes, my teachers asked us to give comments on peer works, but it was always the same thing. We had to read to text, write comments on it and then give it back to the student who wrote it. The problem with this way of doing peer assessment is that the students reviewing the papers has access to the name of the student who wrote which can alter the revision. With Google Drive, teachers can assign the students, numbers in order to preserve anonymity, and upload documents for peer editing on the Drive. For example, a teacher can ask his students to write a short story. When all the students are done, the teacher can redistribute the papers between the students and ask them to read their colleague’s work as homework or in the class. After having read the papers, the students only have to accede to a Word or Excel document made accessible by the teacher on Google Drive and write their comments directly on those documents. The major advantages of using this device in peer assessment is, first it’s anonymous, second  the types of comments that the teacher wants his students to give are supervised because the students only have to fill in the blanks the teacher’s questions directly on the document and finally, it’s instantly accessible for all the students.

Another way to integrate Google Drive in our classroom, like mentioned in the article the magic of google drive in the classroom, is to use this tool as a way to make students create stories, texts, poems and so forth, in community. Let me explain this great idea! Google Drive, being a file sharing device, permits people (students in our case) to work at the same time, on one single document. Doing so, students can work together, without being together! Each student only has to access his own Drive and work on the document while his teammates are doing just like him. Being myself someone who prefers working at home rather than in school while creating texts, I believe that the file sharing systems proposed by Google Drive helps a lot the students who are just like me, without impeding the advantages of team work. The best of two worlds!

Other interesting ideas, from two reflective teachers, involve the processes of reading and sharing. Indeed, analyzing literature can be real difficult for many students, but with Google Drive, it can be simplified or at least it can give the students the help they need while analyzing.  Imagine! The students are all at home, reading let say The Scarlet Letter from Nathaniel Hawthorne, and they are having a hard time with the analysis, the teacher can simply upload discussion questions or reading tips on Google Drive and all the students can access the documents, answer the questions they know and find tips and answers to their own questions. Some people might say: Yes but they can do exactly the same on Facebook! And those people are not completely wrong except for one point. With Google Drive, teachers can help their students and guide them as well, without having to have their students as Facebook friends.

In this blog article, I only mentioned three of the thousand uses of Google Drive in the classroom. Actually, the ways to use this wonderful device are as numerous as are teachers. It can be used to create Web-quests, to give the students their assignments, to make the content of the course available or simply to communicate and share ideas!

Being informed of all the diversified uses of Google Drive, I’ll try, when I have my own classroom, to integrate this great tool as much as possible! In my opinion, this device can have major benefits on the students’ interests about the course which can only lead to better results!

 

Goanimate! When the Expression: A Picture Worth a Thousand Words Seems Insignificant!

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Have you ever attended to a conference, a course or a simply to a meeting with someone who was trying to show you something, but wasn’t able to get understood by anyone? But what if this person could transform his thoughts into animation videos? This is where GoAnimate can be useful!

Just to make sure that everybody understands what GoAnimate is, here are the major lines of this product.

GoAnimate is a free (or Pro) software that give the opportunity to his clients to create their own little animation videos. Like mentioned on free tech 4 teachersGoAnimate proposes two different ways to create a video, there is the text-to-speech movie maker, and the more complex one where characters can move and the scenes change. To create videos (like you can see on the following video) is pretty simply on this software. You chose your characters, your scenes, you place the characters wherever you want and type you in your dialogues. The software arranges the settings and puts your words into sound dialogues, everything in less than 5 minutes!

Let’s take a quick look at one tutorial!

Now that everybody knows how to use GoAnimate, I must, as a future teacher, tell you what are the major benefits of using this tool in classrooms!

First of all, I think of the benefits that this tool has with visual students. For the ones who have to see something to get to understand it this software is PERFECT! A teacher can rapidly create a video to explain a concept or only to give a visual support to what he says. Another important advantages of using GoAnimate, like shown on teachweb2, is the fact that videos can be used as educational tools by the teachers, but also as proofs of the students’ understandings of what have been shown in class. It’s a two ways device that, in my sense, can benefit as much the teachers and the students. Just like stated on the life inquired‘s blog article about GoAnimate, the possible uses of this device are almost infinite. It goes from introducing a Web-quest, to giving to students assignments, including adding features and supports to traditional presentations. In addition, GoAnimate videos can be broken into comic strip images which can be reused in many circumstances such as the creation of individual or class comic books. Those images can also be given to students as handouts to follow what is shown on the video or can be used to create a Jigsaw activity in which students have to teams up and recreate the little movie.

In my opinion, GoAnimate represents a great tool for both teachers and students and can help develop the creativity of every single person using it. The videos created on this site can also be a great alternative to too often boring Power Point presentations or even Prezi ones. Used for assignments, GoAnimate can reach more easily the students’ interests which can help avoiding off-tasking. On top of that, GoAnimate is so easy to understand, to work with and offers so many scenarios that using this tool can be nothing but a success used with a group of students!

Cable Television for Students

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Since a couple of years, the use of technologies in classroom has been more and more common place. People are getting used to see teachers using computers, Internet, Smart Boards and other types of devices to catch the interest of their students, but few think of cable television as an educational device!

Basically, including cable television in classrooms is something pretty easy, the only thing the schools or school boards have to do is to subscribe to a cable company such as Videotron or Bell in Quebec and install the cables or decoders in the classes and plug them to the existing of newly bought televisions. Not something really complicated! In addition, like mentioned in eric digests blog, many cable companies and television companies have made commercial-free television programming available to the schools and at real low prices or even free.

The advantages of incorporating live TV programs in the classrooms are numerous, the list goes from catching the attention of the most difficult or troubled students to giving extra activities or listening to the better ones including the opportunity to give fun reward activities to the students when they deserve it. All those advantages, listed on media room, can have major benefits on the classroom dynamic, can interest students to the content of the lessons and can also give good and actual supports to the teachers. With access to live information, actual programs and content-based documentaries, ESL teachers and all other teachers can make sure that their students feel connected to what they are learning. Cable TV can be used to give a concrete support to abstract subjects which can help students understand what the teacher is saying. For example, if a science teacher is talking about animals at their natural state, it is much more powerful to show a National Geographic documentary than just give them sheets that explain how animals behave in nature. Of course, this could also be possible with only a television and a DVD, but with cable television, the content shown to the students is more actual and can be directly related to the students’ lives and what they really enjoy watching.

In my opinion, equipping our classrooms with cable TV only has benefits. The teacher has a full control over the content, he can decide when it is adequate to listen to a certain program and what type of program to watch. He can also support his lesson by using any shows or any educational channels. Moreover, a teacher can also catch his students interest by asking them what are the shows or programs they like to watch and he can use those shows to reward the students. This way of working can, in a way, give the chance to the students to choose the content of their courses and it can motivate them to work well and avoid off-tasking, in order to have the right to watch their favorite TV program.

I remember when I was in my ESL classes when I was younger and the moments I enjoyed the most were the ones where we could watch movies or TV programs in English. If my teacher could have used cable television back at that time, she could have integrated the TV shows the weak students enjoyed and it would have been easier than having to rent them of find them on the Internet and doing so, my teacher could have reached a bigger percentage of students’ interests.

In summary, like stated in cic online, one company dedicated to educational broadcasting, cable television in classrooms can bring extra information and educational content to the teachers which could not have been possible in traditional classes and this is why I believe that it would be great to include this technology in our schools.

Can Laptops Be Beneficial In Our Classrooms?

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When I think of laptops in classrooms like mentioned in Nicole Glass‘s article, the first things that come to my mind are Facebook, Twitter and all those distracting websites!

It is true that when students have access to computers and laptops during their classes, they are often tended to do anything but listen to the teacher, but used in supervised and controlled contexts, laptops can represent great tools for students, but also for teachers!

In traditional classrooms, all the students are sitting at their desk, listening to the teacher (hopefully), taking notes on sheets of paper, reading books and doing worksheets. All those tasks seem a little bit boring and absolutely not adapted to the 21st century students. But how to integrate technologies and technological ways to teach without simply giving a disturbing device to the students? Using controlled laptops!!

The use of laptops in classrooms is something pretty new in schools and is still debated. According to some people, the use of those devices can only disturb the students and impede their learning, but for others, like me, they represent a great way to educate students on the proper use of technologies in their lives, but also a good way to interest a larger amount of students, mostly the ones that tend to drop off school.

Like mentioned on cbc news, the use of ”laptops make[s] learning more interactive and effective.” Indeed, with laptops in classrooms, students can have direct access to an infinite amount of information from all around the world, they can also express themselves on blogs, they can increase their creativity by creating original websites, and the teachers can give students online activities which are much more interactive than regular worksheets. Laptops can also give a sense of responsibility to the students and help them become more mature. Briefly, laptops in classrooms can represent a lot time saved, they can help student express themselves in any language, their first or their second or third one, it can help them improve their creativity, their sense of responsibility and also help them know how to cleverly use all the technological devices that surround them in today’s world. In addition, like mentioned in laptops school classes scores article, laptops can also have major benefits on the students’ results at school and can decrease the percentage of school drop offs.

According to me, all those advantages make the use of laptops in classrooms, something to encourage as much as possible.

However, it is important to keep in mind, that even if they are great educative tools, they can also represent one of the biggest distractions for students. To counter this point, many tools are available for the teachers. The school can restrict the access to internet by blocking certain sites such as Facebook, Twitter and etc. and teachers must supervise thoroughly their students’ screens.

To conclude, I would say that, contrary to what I thought at the beginning, laptops in classrooms, when well supervised, can have major benefits on students’ learning and can also help them getting more responsible and aware of the possible dangers linked to technologies and this is why I believe that they should be used to a certain extent in today’s classrooms. Maybe not all the time, but in certain periods of the day, on a regular basis.