Monday, April 18, 2016

Swipe. An Interactive Presentation Tool

I'm not sure how I found this tool, but however I did, I'm glad for the random clicking that probably brought me there. In short, I discovered a very cool presentation tool. It's called swipe.

The Image says it all. The tool allows you to create a presentation, share it to anyone, on any device for them to view and interact with you while you present. There is even an option to sync to the live presentation, so that the connected devices screens magically change when you change your own!

 I hate to admit, but in the past, I have made power point presentations to present content to students. (What's done is done.) I was never convinced that this was a good way to share information, but I gave it a go, and discovered what I already knew. Way back when, I even tried to  print off the slides to accompany the slideshow. All I managed to do was provide students with the power to doodle in the margins, color in all the o's and find tons of ways to zone out.

I have even sat through professional development, and college courses, where I've paid good money for someone to monotonously flip through slides, while I pretend to follow along with a print off of the slides. Let's face it, it doesn't work.

So how is this tool any better? 

Well, it is not just your regular presentation tool, it is  truly interactive! I tried this last week with a lesson about parallax. I've found that this concept requires a lot of drawings, sketches and measurements. So, I tried this out with a few basic slides.  When the class started and students started to put away their phones, and devices,  I said..."wait a minute, you are going to need those for the first 10 minutes of class. Take them out and go to this site"
We dove into parallax and guess what? They were actually paying attention, following along, taking notes, and asking questions.

I thought this was just some kind of fluke. So I tried again with a different lesson. This lesson was a collaborative reading and a discussion activity. It worked out great!

In the end this is a great tool and provides a really great interactive way to present lesson material. I am excited to try it with Professional Development courses I have coming up soon.

It is also a great tool to make student presentations more engaging for their classmates.

Try it out. It's really easy and fun.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Chrome Music Lab

To get right to the point, Chrome Music Lab is wicked fun.

It is currently Music in our Schools month, So, I thought I might share a little bit related to music. I'm not a music teacher, but I am passionate about music and appreciate its power. Music is a magical form of communication that breaks down any barrier and brings people together.  I take any chance I can get to listen, create, or experience music. You can ask any one of my students, that if there isn't any music playing in my classroom, it's only because I'm not in school that day.  Music really does sooth the beast, and control the attitudes in a classroom. If you want high energy play some good Rock, if you want students to be chill and focus, play some good jazz (this is a good tune for when students are working in out at 6:04, you might have an uncontrollable urge to shake your body!)

The Chrome Music Lab makes you feel like a kid again. It is really fun to create mini-tunes and take a break to just live in the moment. Sure, there are a lot of music making tools out and about, but this one is so simple. All you need is a bit of creativity and you are off. Enjoy the music and have some fun, check out Chrome Music Lab.

Friday, January 29, 2016

OK Google! Why do students struggle to find good information?

My generation was lucky enough to evolve with emerging technology. Thankfully, the technology did evolve. I remember having a rotary phone as the main house land line, watching the original Star Wars Trilogy on Betamax, playing video games like clowns and balloons on the Radio Shack TRS-80 color computer. (It must have been the model 4, I'm not that old) Eventually, the NES came along and our first, true home computer was fully loaded with Windows 95 that had to start from the DOS prompt for some reason. Social media was using EFNet IRC to slowly type a few words like "Hey. What's up?" However, before you got to the internet you were subjected to listening to horrible modem sounds and waiting for the dial up connection. Internet research began with Asking Jeeves about it's sexual orientation as well as how cool other classmates might be.

Now, fast forward about 25 years and thankfully, technology has become more sophisticated and easier to use. In that time, my lucky generation has become masters at asking Google questions and finding relevant information to satisfy the instantaneous need to know how much money Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom made on opening day, or trying to find the episode of Full House where DJ was caught with a beer by Uncle Jesse. Besides finding useless information, my lucky generation has also become "Google Ninja's" and can pretty much find valid information about any topic, and be able to learn enough about it to be able to show off the newly discovered knowledge. If you need a research paper, Google Scholar to the rescue. If you need specific information about a political issue in the last few months, Google Filters to the rescue. If you prefer to not be tracked and get faster answers that are from more trustworthy sites, then DuckDuckGo is the place to be. Similarly, we've evolved to be able to quickly type the Boolean lingo that we know the search engines want. If I want information about Carbon Dioxide levels from the previous ice age, and  not collect that from Yahoo Answers,  I can search for this in google:  CO2 and Ice Ages

OK, so what's the point of all this rambling, besides a journey down memory lane? Being in a time where technology is everywhere and information is easy to access, many students still do not know how to access this information. Many teachers, myself included, assume that students just know how to use these search tools, and know how to find the correct information. Similarly, we assume they know what sites to trust and what sites to take with a grain of salt. The reality is, they take it for granted that they have these powerful devices that are wicked good at playing games, and "socializing." Our task as educators is to help students learn how to harness the power of these devices. The first step is to help them learn how to use the internet to find good information. Google has a pretty significant hold on this generation. They have devices, they have tools in the cloud, they are taking over education, yet finding valid information can throw a typical student for a loop. My response to this task, as an educator, is to frequently respond to student questions with..."Hmm, that's a great question. I'm not sure, let's look it up." Then I'll model how to search Google for their question.

Google works best if you can summarize your question with short key words. Then, to obtain more relevant information, use the filters to adjust how far back to pull information. Many times I'll include the tag. Students are often told to stay clear of Wikipedia. My philosophy on that differs, Wikipedia is a great place to get some quick information. However, some other sites are not quite as trustworthy. I will typically  model the tag to show students how to eliminate sites that are not always trustworthy, like yahoo answers. Modeling this frequently has helped students hone in on their skills. Similarly, I create assignments that require farther research that encourage students to search Google for information. While students are overwhelmed with a sea of technology, mastering a basic skill provides students with a powerful tool to be lifelong learners.