Tag Archives: Innovation

3 Alternatives To PowerPoint

6599475_f520

Bored of PowerPoint? Consider trying something new in your classes with these three presentation tools you might not be familiar with:

EMAZE

Emaze calls itself “the next generation of online presentation software.” Students can select from different templates to create visually stunning presentations. Presentations are made using proprietary HTML5  software that runs seamlessly on any browser. Emaze is an impressive tool that can help students focus on visuals and the audience instead of text.

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 1.00.37 PMPros: Free, very impressive 3-D-like templates, easy-to-use, cloud-based, fluid transitions between slides, easy to incorporate graphics and other media

Cons: Limited number of templates, might not be best for displaying a great deal of data, not optimized for tablets (yet)

Here’s a link to how Emaze works.

HAIKU DECK

Haiku Deck helps users create “presentations that inspire” by limiting text, simplifying a message, and incorporating  images that add depth. It is a wonderful product that is easily shared online and lends itself to visually stunning presentation. It’s as if the coolest graphic designer around created a presentation tool just for you.

Pros: Free, many stock images to use, can upload images and screenshots from desktop, can be used on tablets, perhaps the best graphics and fonts on the web, public notes can be added to slides to help give them context, easy to share online, creates beautiful presentations

Cons: A bit of a learning curve to master software, no videos can be embedded into a presentation

Here’s a link to how Haiku Deck works on a desktop; here’s a link to how it works on an iPad.

Prezi

Prezi is not necessarily a new presentation tool (it’s been around since 2009) but it’s one of my favorites. It’s easy to use, cloud-based and great for including multimedia. Presentations created with Prezi might not be as stunning as ones created with Emaze or Haiku Deck but they can be just as fun and effective. It’s a great product to use with groups since students can edit presentations at the same time and from different computers. Prezi is like an old, reliable friend–one that can still help you create fantastic presentations.

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 1.47.35 PM

Pros: Can be modified by different users at the same time, easy to incorporate video files, can accommodate substantial text, fun to use, can be used on an iPad, incorporates motion into a presentation (see cons), will auto-sync your presentations across devices

Cons: A bit of a learning curve to master software, limited space unless upgrading to the paid version (I pay $59 a year for more space and the ability to keep presentations private), too much motion can leave viewers with motion sickness

Here’s a link to how Prezi works.

All three of these tools can be mastered by students quickly and will encourage less text and more audience interaction during a presentation. During a future lesson, consider training17having students choose one of these three tools and create a presentation using them. As students move into college and the workforce, they will likely have to give many presentations. These three platforms can help students develop important presentation skills while also helping them avoid some of the traditional bad presentation habits that can form when using only PowerPoint and Keynote.

Everything You Need For SOLE

The idea of SOLE, or a Self-Organized Learning Environment, began as the brainchild of Sugata Mitra, a professor from Newcastle University in England. In 2013, Mitra was the first-ever recipient of the $1 million TED prize for his ideas about how to improve education. Mitra is a proponent of student-centered learning and his SOLE model was developed as a way for teachers and schools to better understand and implement his philosophy. While SOLE lessons are traditionally geared toward younger students, teachers at our high school have found tremendous value when incorporating them into their daily lessons at times during the school year. Here is a movie I made about how teachers at our school have embraced the concept of SOLE, what they have learned from implementing these lessons, and why they think SOLE lessons work.

Click here for the SOLE Toolkit for everything you need to get started developing your own Self-Organized Learning Environment at your school.

Click here for information from Mitra’s School in the Cloud and here to register to join the SOLE community.

On April 25, 2015 I presented at Ednado about SOLE. Here’s my short slide show.

Here is Mitra’s 2013 TED Talk that inspired schools throughout the world to go SOLE.

#innovateNJ

InnovateNJOur school district is fortunate to be part of a new, exciting organization created by the State of New Jersey’s Office of School Innovation. Called innovateNJ, the initial community consists of 10 like-minded school districts working together “in ways that produce replicable and adaptable innovative practices.” It’s exciting to be a part of a community of fellow educators willing to collaborate about next-generation instructional practices. Personally, my PLN has grown tremendously since joining the organization and I look forward to what the future holds.

At 8:00PM EST tomorrow, November 20th, the innovateNJ community will be hosting their first twitter chat about innovation in schools. Please join the chat using the hashtag #innovateNJ. During the chat we’ll also share information about how other New Jersey school districts can join our organization. The next round of applications will become available this week. At the least, please join our chat on 11/20–we’re talking innovation!

To view our Twitter chat invitation, click on the image.Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 7.41.09 AM

 

Using Subtext in English Class

By Bree Valvano

subtext-2
Image Credit: https://www.renaissance.com/products/subtext

As I continued to research and discover new ways to use technology, specifically the five new classroom iPads I have been given, I came across several articles that discussed an app called Subtext. This app allows you to download eBooks and create a collaborative reading area for students and teachers. The app allows users to define words, research concepts in a reading via the web, highlight lines, link to videos and other resources, mark notes, ask questions, and comment all in real time. If you know anything about me and my teaching philosophy, you know I had to learn more about this tool.

After downloading the app on my personal iPad and playing with it for a short time, I Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 7.58.26 PMquickly saw the potential this app has for promoting collaboration and close reading of a text. Subtext allows you to create a classroom environment where students can collaborate when discussing a text. The teacher can embed information and web links for students to use while they are reading a text. The teacher can also add questions for students to answer, and/or the teacher can see the comments the students are making and add his/her own comments and answer questions. The teacher can also create specific assignments for the class that are linked to Common Core Standards. Since the Common Core focuses on close reading and using textual evidence to support arguments, this tool has great potential to assist teachers as they help students practice these skills.

As with any app, there are a few things you need to know before you get started. Students and teachers need a Gmail account to log into the app. Since most people are using Gmail and it’s free to set up an account if they are not, this doesn’t seem like too big of a deal. Also, the app itself is free, but you may need to purchase the text documents, depending on what is available. There are some free books, but not all books are free. You also need to purchase licenses so students can access the tool. The cool thing about the licenses is the fact that they can be assigned to a student for the lesson and then reclaimed, after the lesson, so you can use them again in another class. I personally think the cost is totally worth it.

I recently tried the app with my English IIH classes. They worked in groups to complete a close reading activity on Poe’s poem The Raven. Before the activity, I added questions and imagescomments to help the students analyze the use of language and literary devices to convey theme. I explained the features in Subtext, and the students got to work. While students were asking questions, I was able to add my comments and they were able to answer each other’s questions. Students were also able to use the features to look up unfamiliar words and search the web to find helpful information. At the end of the lesson, I asked students what they thought of the tool and the response was unanimous. They thought the app was both fun and helpful. They enjoyed being able to construct meaning and collaborate when completing a close reading of the text. I will definitely be using this tool again.

Our Department’s iPad Initiative

 

This post is by Bree Valvano, an English teacher at Randolph High School

file.aspxI feel very fortunate to be one of five teachers selected to be part of the iPad initiative program in the Randolph High School Humanities Department. Our school recently purchased a number of classroom sets of iPads that are housed in Tech Tubs, a locking and recharging solution for tablets or Chromebooks. Since being selected, I have thought about how I can share some of the tools I find with others. I thought the best way to share this experience would be to post entries, outlining my findings, to the humanities blog. So here is my first entry.

After downloading some of my “go to” tools, such as Nearpod and Showme, I started to do a little research to find other apps I can use in the classroom. Over the long weekend I found two interesting apps that I will be trying out in my English IV classroom.

The first app is called Smule Auto Rap. This free app allows the user to record a short Auto_Rapspoken clip and the app turns the clip into a rap that can be shared via email. I thought this would be a great way to make “do nows” and/or “exit tickets” more fun and relevant for the students. I plan on trying it out when students start reading The Kite Runner. I am going to have students record their reactions to pivotal events in the book, and after recording their responses and turning them into raps, they can share their recordings with other students and eventually email them to me. I feel like this could end up being a fun way to share their reactions and check for understanding.

Trading_CardsThe next app I found this weekend is called Trading Cards, and it is made by the people who run the ReadWriteThink web site. This free app allows the
user to create a trading card of information. This information could be about a character, a historical event, a novel, or a concept. Students are able to add up to 120 characters of information for each question asked and a photo. The trading card can be saved to use later when studying for a test and/or shared with others.

Again, I am so excited to be part of this initiative, and I look forward to sharing more information about helpful apps as I continue to find them.

Some Quick Ways to Check for Everyone’s Understanding

Raised-Hands-007

In a recent article in ASCD’s Educational Leadership, Dylan Wiliam writes about  ways teachers can ask the right questions the right way. In the article, Wiliam recounts perhaps the most familiar way teachers formatively asses their students. A teacher asks a question to the class and picks a student who sits eagerly waving a hand in the air. The teacher and that student interact and the class moves on. This cycle is repeated in classrooms across the country. Wiliam calls this method “the standard classroom transaction model or I-R-E (for initiation-response-evaluation).” It’s not that this method is bad, it’s just that more effective models exist. For Wiliam, “just about every aspect of this scenario actually gets in the way of learning–and it doesn’t provide enough information on what most students in the class know and need to learn.” The goal in every class should be to assess all students every 20-30 minutes of instructional time. Some traditional ways to do this are by having students use dry-erase boards to write answers, thumbs up/thumbs down, entrance/exit slips, and short, timed writing assignments. While these methods are tried and true and will work great in your classrooms, I thought it might be a good opportunity to illustrate some new tools that might change the way you assess. In this post, I’ll link to some amazing tech-savvy ways that teachers can check for everyone’s understanding.

All-Student Responses (without paying for clickers!)

When people hear about all-student response systems, they immediately think of clickers. However, there’s a host of free services teachers can use that will get the job done just as Unknownwell–and maybe with a bit more style. I’ve written about tools like Socrative, PollEverywhere, EduCanan, and TodaysMeet in previous posts. These four sites are great for generating instant student feedback during a class in different ways. For example, Socrative works great with objective-type questions while EduCanan allows users to embed questions into videos. But, if you’re looking to add targeted questions to your daily classroom routine, perhaps the best all-student response system I’ve seen recently is Nearpod.

Nearpod lets teachers upload or create presentations and add questions within the presentation for students to answer. Students log on to Nearpod with a teacher-generated access code and the presentation becomes available on their device. Students can answer questions as they appear on their screens from multiple-choice questions to open-ended  responses. This data gets transmitted to the teacher in real time. Nearpod is quickly becoming perhaps the most-used online assessment tool in our high school. The teachers at our school who discovered this deserve a TON of credit. Nearpod amazes.

How To Assess Quickly

The reality is that not every class will work with a Nearpod presentation or TodaysMeet backchannel. If you’re short on time and computers, there are a few methods you can employ to “assess all.” Dylan Wiliam explains perhaps the simplest way for teachers to improve classroom questioning is to stop asking for volunteers. Wiliam calls this method “No Hands Up.” popsicle_stick_namesThe traditional way to call on students during no hands up is to use names on popsicle sticks. Ask the question, then pick a stick at random and that’s the student who has to answer the question. This forces all students to think of answers in anticipation of being called on. Sometimes I think we don’t give students enough time to think of answers when we’re teaching. I know I’m guilty of sometimes choosing the first hand that gets raised. By giving students time to wait after you have asked a question and then select a candidate, slower learners will have time to formulate an authentic answer. While popsicle sticks certainly work, are there any cool apps or websites out there we can use to pick students? You bet there are!

There are many student randomizers available online. iLeap’s Pick A Student is free and is a very basic app to use. There are other versions that, for a dollar or two, offer better screen480x480graphics and more fun. HAT by Cool Classroom Software ($.99) is one that allows teachers to select names out of a virtual hat using their device. Students aren’t repeated until everyone in the class has been called on. Another interesting possibility is a web-based service called Random Name Picker. This website features a giant spinning wheel where you can add all the names of students in your class. Click to give the wheel a spin; whoever is selected has to answer the question. I’ve thrown in some names from our department on the wheel. Maybe the first person selected has to write a post for Randolphhum?

a

During a lesson, think about trying to hear all your students’ voices. In his ASCD article, Wiliam writes about one teacher who described this assessment process as “making the students’ voices louder and making the teacher’s hearing better.” That sounds great to me. Regardless of whether you’re picking names out of a real hat or a virtual one, if you assess all students in your classes regularly, you’re bound to become a better listener.

The Marshmallow Challenge

Image

Today our Humanities Department participated in Tom Wujec’s “Marshmallow Challenge.” With 20 pieces of spaghetti, one yard of string, one yard of tape, and a single marshmallow, we attempted to see who could build the tallest freestanding tower. Taking only 18 minutes, the Marshmallow Challenge is a great way to bring people together with a shared task. Use the string, tape, and spaghetti to build a structure strong enough to hold a single marshmallow on top. The tallest freestanding tower holding a marshmallow wins. As Tom Wujec writes on his blog, “The Marshmallow Challenge is a remarkably fun and instructive design exercise that encourages teams to experience simple but profound lessons in collaboration, innovation and creativity.” We broke up into seven groups and got to work after a very brief introduction.

Image
Teams start to build

It was exciting to see our teachers working together to win the competition. With Frank Sinatra playing in the background, teams worked to build the tallest structure. After 18 minutes, four teams successfully had a standing structure. One team was disqualified for a liberal interpretation of what “freestanding” meant. The winning team’s structure was 20 inches tall, beating the second place team by two inches.

What did we learn from the process? We learned that sometimes it helps to work alongside each other to solve a problem. It also helps to prototype. I’m sure if our teams had another chance at the challenge they would do better. As we begin to implement new initiatives into our daily school routines we’ll only get better the more we perform the tasks. “The marshmallow challenge provides teams with a shared felt experience, a common language and a solid stance to find the right prototypes to build their real projects successfully, to avoid the oh-oh moments and have real ta-dah moments,” writes Wujec. Sometimes it helps to understand that projects can have a marshmallow–something that looks easy to do but in the end can be a real problem.

Image
The winning team! Congrats to Jeff, Rob, Jon, and Nicole.

Listen to Tom Wujec describe his process and the lessons he learned while designing his Marshmallow Challenge: