Utilizing the Tech You Have: Mobile Devices in the Classroom

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If 1:1 laptops have not yet reached your classroom, there is most likely other tools which can be utilized for learning. Many students in the intermediate secondary levels already have their own cell phone and are often able to use them at school for educational purposes thanks to many school boards' BYOD policies. Are you utilizing this tool to improve learning?

5 Tips to get a mobile program up and running:

  1. Clearly define when, how and why mobile devices are being implemented
  2. Consider the digital divide - will some students be left out not owning a device?
  3. Co-create a clearly defined set of rules with students which compliments the school's established Responsible/Acceptable Use Policy.
  4. Practice using devices in group settings first to ensure students are familiar with the technology and can effectively use it.
  5. Ongoing reflection of your teaching practice: Is the use of technology modifying or transforming the learning task?
There are many softwares which support the use of mobiles in the classroom. The following are not limited to use with mobiles, but can easily be integrated into a BYOD setting:

Alternatives to PowerPoint: Web-Based Presentation Slide Programs

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I used to teach Grade 8 English for 90 students. That meant whenever there were class presentations....I watched 90 of them. Thus, one would understand why I absolutely refused to let my students create boring, unengaging presentations using static, simple technology.

I didn’t restrict what software my students could use, rather I restricted what they couldn’t use by banning PowerPoint.
However, I learned as a teacher to be sure to direct students to programs that fit the criteria of the assignment. Since my oral presentation had to include a live speaking portion, students who chose the PowToons option were left starting and stopping their video. You can imagine how NOT smooth my nervous 13 year old students were in doing this in front of an audience of their peers.
When providing options for students to create a presentation, it makes sense to me to seperate technology by presentation slides and presentation videos. 
See my review of various technology to create slides (could also be used as a student resource):
See the slides here.
To create short videos or animations to accompany presentations, see my Pinterest board of Video Creation Resources:
Follow Cris's board Video Creation Resources on Pinterest.

Flipping the Classroom: Don't Re-Invent the Wheel, Find Pre-Made Video Resources Online

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There has been a lot of talk lately around the theory of ‘flipping the classroom’. Essentially, students preview lesson material and lectures at home to make time to do more hands-on, collaborative activities in class. 
Watch the following short video or view this infographic for more details.
Source: Center for Teaching and Learning
However, what teacher has the time to create a high quality video for each lesson?

Allow me to be so bold as to say: no teacher.  Though I have seen success from teachers who simply record themselves teaching a lesson at the front of the class or from an aerial view then posting it in a place students can access such as on YouTube or school LMS. This simple act allows the student to pause or rewind any confusing parts of a lesson which promotes self-regulation in the learner. Further, I have also seen success from teachers who record their screens during a lesson using tools such as EduCreations or the recording feature on SmartBoards. What’s great about this format is the accompanying online learning community of educators who have posted their own lessons to share. You could further check out places such as OpenEd or Share My Lesson for lesson sharing in a video format.  Flipping the classroom has many benefits: instead of students listening to a transmissive, passive lecture, teachers can utilize the collaborative environment of the classroom by guiding cooperative and exploratory tasks. It also frees up the teacher’s time to provide personalized instant feedback to students and differentiate instruction by pulling small groups of learners to work with.  However, there are many problems to the flipped classroom as well. What if the students don’t do their homework? What if there were technology issues? What if every subject teacher expected a student to learn lesson content the night before (how many hours of homework is that??) The more prominent downfall I spotted in my sideline analysis of the flipped classroom is that student grew tired of the format. Making an educational video entertaining is a hard feat! Creating even a simple animation or instructional video to accompany or substitute a face-to-face lesson takes much effort and time on the teacher's part.  What I realized is that I did not have to create the video myself - what it came down to is finding the best resource to fit my teaching needs. Why re-invent the wheel? Luckily there are many free educational video resources available online. 

Follow Cris's board Video Resources for Lessons on Pinterest.

I’ve also learned when it comes to the flipped classroom, as with anything, it works best in moderation. I appreciate many educational benefits to ‘flipping the classroom’. But I also am going to teach a lesson in the format which I feel worked best for the topic and my learning goals.  For instance, I chose to flip a lesson during a speeches unit I taught. In this lesson, I had students view Martin Luther King Jr.’s infamous “I Have a Dream” speech at home, identifying literary devices and observing the vocal skills used in the speech. By flipping the lesson, students could view the video as many times as they liked. For the in-class lesson, we discussed the answers in groups and as a class before viewing another video which deconstructs the speech.  I used the extraordinarily user-friendly site Ted Ed Lessons to create this lesson, along with embedded instructions, formative assessment , and discussion forum. 

The website sends the lesson creator a link to view what students have started the lesson and to review progress. Other teachers can also customize the lesson to suit their needs.
See the Ted Ed Video Lesson here See the Full Lesson Plan here
See the Unit Plan here 

Microsoft Word Online vs. Google Docs

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Why Both Are Great:

  1. Collaborate and share with otherswork on a document in live time; collaborate on whole folders of documents; share with others via a link or email with various levels of editing rights
  2. Auto-save featureno more backup files as documents save every few seconds
  3. Sync all your documents in a clouded driveaccess your work from any device by signing into an account

    How They Differ:

    At first glance, One Drive and the comparable Google Drive offer many of the same types of documents to create. OneDrive does not offer a Drawing option, but this is not that great of a feature in my opinion as there are many better drawing tools available online. A major benefit of One Drive over Google Drive is an online version of OneNote.

    But apparently Google offers OneNote as as an App in the Chrome Store:

    What’s a greater concern is the mere 3 GB of storage space on One Drive with the ability to upgrade by recommending the service. This is extremely limited when considering that Google offers 15GB of free storage (30GB if you are signed up at work or school).

    For additional reasons Google Docs edges out the competition see this article: 10 Reasons Why Google Docs is better than Word Online. On the flip side, there is a not-as-convincing list: 5 Reasons for Microsoft fans to dump Google Docs. Though the above article does bring up a key problem with Google Docs: FORMATTING. If you don't know what I am talking about, read about the way Google Docs often alters original formatting when documents are converted.  
    Personally, the only time I ran into formatting issues in my daily use of Docs was when I printed pages, but I do admit it can be a problem. Ironically, it was the Word Online document’s formatting that was disarranged during my demo.

    The Bottom Line:

    If you work in an environment that is already utilizing Microsoft products or produced highly formatted documents, Word Online is an ideal tool to increase collaboration and sync work. However, if you regularly use Google tools (like I do in a Google certified school) than it makes more sense to stick with Google tools.

    Blended Learning: Learning Management Systems

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    This hybrid method of learning combines traditional classroom and online education. Blended learning has emerged with the advancement of new technologies in an effort to reach and teach students more effectively.  While educators may debate the exact meaning of the term, the gist is that online technology is used not just to supplement, but transform and improve the learning process. 
    The Ontario Ministry of Education explains the tools used to create Blended learning should help students:
    • learn or review key concepts
    • stay organized 
    • communicate with others
    • show what they have learned
    • submit assignments
    • track achievement

    The website further states, “Blended learning uses the tools of the provincial learning management system (LMS) to teach and support learning in a face-to-face class.” Thus, technology used to support Blended Learning not just technology tools which can be used in the classroom, but online learning platforms meant to support traditional classroom learning.  The goal is to use technology to build an online learning community that transcends the walls of the classroom so students can continue their learning outside the classroom. 

    Click here for my comparison of various Learning Management Systems (LMS) to Support Blended Learning

    Social Media in the Classroom - Twitter Pilot

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    Social media is a great tool to integrate into the classroom and I have experienced with various platforms such as Edmodo, Blogger, Google Sites, Facebook, Skype and most prevalently Twitter. I used Twitter in my practicum classroom back in Ontario and it went over quite well. The students stayed in touch with me and their peers from the ease of their phones and home computers. I was able to send links to the students easily and recommend educational resources related to the topics were were learning about in class. Last year, I piloted a Twitter program at my school and Hong Kong and did not have as successful of results. Twitter is not popular in Asia and many of the students had never even heard of it before. After the chaos of getting 90 students signed up on the website, I found Twitter not to be very user-friendly for 12 year olds. Unfortunately the students were not very engaged in using Twitter as it was not a form of social media they were interested in using. In addition, we ran into many problems with the students’ inboxes getting spammed with adult content.

    In the end, we found other collaborative web 2.0 tools such as Edmodo and Google Docs a better fit for our students. I personally use Twitter to connect with other educators and find it a valuable tools for collecting resources and having conversations with other educators.
    For those new to Twitter, see this document about the basics of using Twitter (I made this for my students). Here is a presentation and instructions for signing up to Twitter we presented to the teachers after our pilot project.
    Follow me @CrisTurple