The future – digital learning tools and strategies

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INF532 is almost at an end. The final forum thread asks us to share six strategies and tools I will take with me in the future. I thought them worth sharing here as well as on the forum.

Flipping teacher professional learning: with my newly acquired and/or enhanced skills in creating videos using tools such as Powtoon, Screencastify and Audacity I will provide further support and resources for the teacher professional learning workshops I regularly present at my school. Taking advice from Flip your PD for Extra Flexibility and Support I will create videos which give explanations and step by step instructions which teachers will be able to view beforehand thus minimizing the time needed for direct instruction in the workshop, freeing up time for hands-on activities and personalised support for individuals. Indiana Jen (author of the post) suggests that teachers often don’t find time to flip (ie view) before the lesson/workshop so the videos could also be provided in addition to direct instruction, allowing those slower to learn to revisit the instruction without holding back those who are ready to move forward and apply their new skills. The best “Flipping in advance” for teachers, suggests Jen is to have them ensure they can access and login to any tool you are using, prior to the session, by providing written or video instruction to assist – this can be a great time-saver, I’m sure we’ve all met teachers who need their hand held at every stage and who can dominate proceedings when things don’t work perfectly for them first time. The videos will also allow “flipping after the fact” enabling teachers to revisit the instruction as and when needed, or for a catch-up for those who missed out.

Blended Learning is a strategy that I would like to support our staff in exploring with their students. My school is working toward a BYO device model for years 6-12, with sets of iPads and Chromebooks for years P-5. Currently in the senior school (9-12) BYOD is on an ad hoc basis. There is a computer lab, 12 desktop PCs in the library, and several trolleys of aging laptops available. In the middle school (3-8) there is a set of iPads exclusively used by years 3-5, enough desktop PCs for one class in the library and three sets of Chromebooks. There is a strong focus on extension for capable students alongside significant learning support for those with difficulties. Most (if not all) students have adequate access to internet-connected devices at home.

Blended learning will best suit this audience, and their teachers, particularly as the availability of technology in the classroom increases. Using online environments such as Google Classroom already enable some teachers to provide opportunities for socially constructed learning through discussions and collaborative projects. Teachers are keen to provide enrichment for the capable and more support for those who need it; well-constructed online environments, in conjunction with face to face teaching, can support both.

Pearltrees has been a revelation in terms of new tools explored in this session. Curating is a big part of what I do both for my personal learning needs and for students and teachers through the library. Pearltrees is very flexible and easy to use, I’m absolutely loving the way any link I tweet is waiting in my “in tray” ready to be organised into a collection the next time I visit. I also appreciate the ability to organise material into sections within collections and being able to customise the background image and editorial header text for each collection. Starting new collections and saving links couldn’t be easier either, as is creating embeddable widgets to display collections on other sites which I will use extensively as our LibGuides site develops. I’m even on the verge of upgrading to a paid subscription so that I can add annotations to individual items. Love, love, love it! Check out my growing collection of Pearls:

Hbailie

Arrow image: Free for commercial use / No attribution required from Pixabay http://pixabay.com/en/arrow-button-end-final-finish-157495/ 

New tool no. 4: Quora

According to Quora their mission is to share and grow the world’s knowledge. It is an online community (a peer to peer learning platform) where members ask questions generally or specifically of other members, and answer questions asked by others. They can also up or down vote others’ responses. It is used to find answers to obscure “non-googleable” needs like “How does it feel to be CEO of a startup company” or to canvas personal opinions “should I take the job offer from Google or Microsoft”. Members can follow other members and topics – their home feed and update emails are customised accordingly.

I’ve been a member for some years (serial joiner that I am I joined up at a PD where it was mentioned) and follow a range of topics related to library, education, technology, and where I live but pretty much ignored till this task came around. What I’ve seen hasn’t inspired me. It’s not that there’s no content, just that nothing I have seen has fulfilled a compelling need. It’s a venue for people to express their opinion and if you are interested or just like to be diverted I guess you would enjoy it. I’ve been unable to excite others either: to research this post I asked “Is Quora worthwhile?” with some further detail explaining the purpose of this review. That was on April 3 but other than Quora staff changing the title to “How and why is Quora worthwhile” (perhaps they thought my version had negative connotations) I’ve had no response.

New tool no. 3 – eduCanon

The latest tool I have evaluated links closely with module 5.3, Flipped Classrooms, as it is a tool that could be used to create lessons in a flipped classroom environment.

eduCanon is an online tool for creating and sharing interactive video lessons. Start with a clip from a video platform (YouTube, TeacherTube, Vimeo, Khan Academy, TedEd and more), crop to just the selection you wish to show, add questions at the time you wish them answered, save and share. You can register your students so that you know who has viewed and whether their answers were correct or share anonymously. The completed video lessons (known as bulbs) can also be embedded in any website or LMS.

Like similar websites and tools, this is a commercial enterprise so the free version has limitations. With it you can:

  • have up to 8 classes
  • monitor an unlimited number of students
  • create unlimited lessons
  • share with colleagues

but your question types are limited to multiple choice, check all that apply and reflective pause.

Upgrading to premium (US$89 per year) gives you

  • fill in the blank and free response question types
  • ability to skip to a time point in the video
  • autograding
  • copying and editing public lessons
  • ability for your students to create lessons
  • worksheet printing
  • downloadable grades

There is also a “Blended school” version with even more functions starting at US$990 per year.

Free accounts offer three ways to share:

  1. With students – ie those you have registered. This will record their responses
  2. Share unique list code – students don’t have to be registered. Responses will be recorded but not linked to an individual
  3. Share with colleagues – for teachers to copy. No login needed to view but no tracking.

Each version includes a different link and embed code.

I have used the embed code from Unique list code to share a bulb I created for a lesson I created about one of my pet hates. You might not show this one to students but it’s a bit of fun:

This the Unique List code link – if you use it you are asked to enter your name and email address before being taken to the video.

I haven’t yet used this with students so it’s difficult to comment on how well eduCanon is works from their perspective but even the simple facility to easily crop a video to just the section you wish to show and share the link or embed is appealing. I can see applications for this not just in the Flipped Learning environment but also in situations where you want students to be able to view and answer questions at their own pace.

Word of warning: when this was demonstrated to me by our media studies teacher he was using a clip from a movie that his students were studying. There were some inappropriate ads showing at the bottom of the screen. Today I turned off my Adblock Plus and Adblock for YouTube extensions but didn’t see any ads appear at all. I’m not sure when or why advertising will appear, whether it is related to the video being shown or something from eduCanon itself (I certainly hope not!) but it’s something to be aware of.

Information curation (and new tool no. 2)


flickr photo shared by verbeeldingskr8 under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) licence

Even though I wrote my digital essay for INF530 on curation I don’t see myself as an expert. The material in module 4 has covered some familiar ground, but there was still plenty that was new for me. The official title of the essay was “Curation as a tool for teaching and learning” so I do have some fairly well-formed ideas about where curation can be effective in education.

  • For teacher librarians curation is something that we’ve always done it’s just that previously we called it “selection” and “collection management”. The resources that we make available in our libraries are carefully curated content for our users. That today we should be curating digital resources using platforms like Pinterest, Scoop.it, Diigo and many others; adding context; providing access, and promoting them to our teachers and students is a no-brainer.
  • Creating curated textbooks: rather than rely on a single textbook (whether print or e-book) clever teachers are taking advantage of the wealth of information sources that are high quality and free (Khan academy, Google Cultural Institute, OER Commons, TEDEd to mention just a few) to curate quality, uniquely tailored and personalised resources for their students.
  • Using a curation platform like Storify to link multimedia content interspersed with original text is an excellent way for students to demonstrate their media literacy skills in analysis, evaluation and creation.
  • Students can collaborate to construct shared meaning by curating resources for a wiki or blog or through social bookmarking such as a Diigo group.

Knowingly or not I have been curating online for nearly ten years, starting with a school Delicious account for curriculum-based web links “bundled” into learning areas. This has evolved into a Diigo account where all new saved links are tweeted and collated on a weekly blog post (and also links with a specific tag to a school resource blog), to Scoop.it topics and Pinterest boards where new items are also shared on Twitter.

New tool no. 2 – Pearltrees (and a bit about an old one)

If memory serves me correctly I first came across Pearltrees at the same time as I discovered Scoop.it at a workshop run by Steve Hargadon at the State Library Victoria in 2011. Scoop.it grabbed my attention for its visual, magazine-style display while Pearltrees seemed trickier to make sense of so the former “won” at the time. Over the years, Scoop.it has become less appealing, most particularly for the greater and greater restrictions imposed on free/edu accounts. I quickly set up 6 or 7 topics while experimenting with the sorts of content that could be added. One was for the novel Of Mice and Men, being studied by our year 10 students; another charted the highs and lows of Victoria’s ill-fated learning management system the Ultranet (documented in my case report for INF536), while others were set up as resources for workshops I held at my school (Apps for productivity in education, Web 2.0 in the classroom). I had a couple more but deleted them when the maximum of five boards rule came in (and I realised that devoting a topic to a single novel wasn’t a great idea). When I worked at Red Cross in 2013 I set up another one for Disaster Resilience Education but transferred ownership of it when the project ended, thinking I’d get another board…but no, the rule now is just two topics on a free account. So I guess the point of this paragraph is that I’m less enthralled with Scoop.it than I once was and what a pleasant surprise Pearltrees is. So what is it?…

Pearltrees is a collaborative curation tool where you can save “pearls” – weblinks, your own photos, files and notes – and drag and drop them to organise into collections. An individual collection can have editorial text added at the top, its own background image, and the pearls can be organised into categories within the collection. Collections are public by default (private collections are only available to premium subscribers) and are automatically linked to the collections of others when they have common elements. It is visually appealing, more similar to Pinterest than Scoop.it.

Knowledge Networks, by hbailie

Like other curation platforms, new items can be shared on various social media platforms but what I really like is that you can set up a link between Twitter and Pearltrees so that anything you tweet with a link is automatically added to Pearltrees – that is a winning feature for me. (I haven’t set up to automatically tweet new pearls yet though, because I’m worried about starting some sort of “hall of mirrors” effect where the tweet of a new pearl gets automatically added back to Pearltrees, then tweeted and added to Pearltrees ad infinitum…it wouldn’t, would it?

Other things I like:

As seen above, you can embed a collection into other platforms. This is very appealing for me as I embark on setting up Libguides for my school. Embedding Pearltrees collections looks like an easy way of adding visually appealing content to guides, certainly much more attractive than what you get from Diigo.

There doesn’t appear to be any limit to the number of collections you can have in a free account – take that, Scoop.it! And so far I haven’t seen any advertising, but that just might Adblock Pro at work.

Pearltrees is definitely a tool I am going to keep using, thank you INF532 for making me give it another look.

 

New tool no. 1 – Alltop

Alltop

This is the first of a series of posts to complete the activity from Module 2.3.

When I first read that I had to “identify six (6) digital tools that are: (a) new to you, i.e., they were not already part of your PLN before you began this subject; and (b) of particular interest to you in developing your PLN, or introducing knowledge networking into the curriculum” in order to “record the process of selecting, testing/trialling and evaluating of each tool as entries on your blog throughout the session” I was a little worried. I’m a serial signer-upper – pretty much everything that had been mentioned I’d already signed up for, tried out and either continued with or rejected and moved on. This was going to require a bit more digging. I’ve come up with three that I already knew a bit about (and had accounts for) but really had done nothing with – Quora, Pearltrees and Tumblr – posts on these will appear soon. Then, on my daily Medium email, I saw an article about Meerkat, a new live-streaming app for Twitter – yay! a new tool to try. I’m still looking for number 6 – all suggestions gratefully received – but luckily I chanced upon Alltop from Guy Kawasaki’s LinkedIn Behind the Scenes post on how he posts on social media. So here we go, new tool no. 1:

Alltop

Alltop is not new, apparently it’s been around since 2008 but one way and another I hadn’t come across it until recently.

Alltop describes itself as providing “aggregation without aggravation”. The creators of Alltop have set about providing an answer to “What’s happening” in a topic by providing links to the five most recent articles from selected websites, blogs and other RSS feeds (such as searches). You can search for topics, browse from categories on the header or browse alphabetically. On a topicIf you see a headline that interests you, hovering over it displays the first paragraph. If you want to read more simply click the link to be taken to the site.

Alltop Digital Media News

Aggregated sites are selected by people, not algorithms, and they are open to suggestions.

You can create your own page of links from selected sites and interests. For this you need to create an account and log in. Now, next to each feeds header you will see a plus sign which is clicked to add that feed to your own page.

Once you’ve curated your own collection you can share it with others – it will have a URL similar to http://my.alltop.com/hbailie. Alltop has gathered together My Alltop pages of “famous/cool friends“. I didn’t recognise many but was interested to see Rohit Bhargava who I referenced in my digital essay on curation last year.

Alltop has a free iPad app as well as the website. The app includes images for the five Hot Topics from any topic page and an annoying banner advertisement at the bottom (Adblock Plus Chrome extension takes care of the ads for me on my computer). Entering your username allows you to see your My Alltop on the app but you can’t add new content to it there.

Signing up

There is no option to sign in with Google, Facebook or other open ID. Simply select a username (lucky for me my favourite, hbailie, was available), enter a password and your email for verification purposes.

Evaluation

Alltop is a very clean looking way to view recent content on a broad range of topics. The capacity to select what you want to see on you own page is useful. I particularly like the way that hovering on a link gives the first paragraph, it makes it very easy to decide whether to view the full story or not and allows me to look over a lot of content in a short time.

Alltop would be very useful for people who have never used an RSS reader before as it makes the process of finding and adding content very simple.

Not being able to edit your content on the iPad app makes it less useful to me as I’m most likely to use it on my iPad on my daily commute.

Not all topics I’m interested in have their own page and some of the search results seem a bit random. A search for “teachers” found “Christian Church” (!); Education; English Language Teaching”; Gambling” (!?!); “Homeschooling”; “India” (?), and “Inspiration”. Hmmm.

Will I keep using it?

Probably, a bit. I have My Alltop paged linked on my Chrome bookmark bar and the app on my iPad. When I have an idle moment I might well open them up. But it won’t be every day.