Blog Assignment #5

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For the most part of my student life, everytime I heard the words “visual support” with “oral presentation”, it meant Powerpoint. It was the ultimate, best way to create fun, colorful and relevant visual support for the many oral presentations I had to do in high school and Cegep, and even university for a little while. When I bought my computer (a Macbook Pro), I didn’t  have access to Microsoft Office and was really bummed out about not being able to use Powerpoint. So I found some kind of equivalent : Keynote. Overall, it was okay. The templates were really professional, and it was easy to use, but I still missed Powerpoint for some reason. Then, during my first semester in university, when I had to do a group presentation for a class, one of my classmates said “I can make the Prezi”. My immediate reply was “A what ?”.

Prezi is an amazing tool to create visual presentations for school or business. What is really great is the fact that it is on the internet : no need to download a program. Also, it’s completely free, which is really, really cool. All you have to do if you want to use Prezi is to sign up, and it takes about 5 seconds (even less if you want to connect it to your Facebook account). Of course, there are different kinds of memberships, and some cost money, but the free version is usually more than enough for what you have to do. If you work in education, you have the opportunity to have a free, complete membership. Once you’ve signed up (and it really takes 5 seconds), you can immediately start creating. And it’s super easy.

Another thing that is great about Prezi is that they are all public. Once you’ve created your presentation, anybody can see it. So if you go on the Explore page (http://prezi.com/explore/popular/), you can see all the great Prezis that have been created by people all around the world. As a teacher, you can certainly find presentations that can help you with your content. You want to introduce Edgar Allan Poe to your students ? Here you go : http://prezi.com/explore/search/?search=edgar+allan+poe#search=edgar+allan+poe&reusable=false&page=1&users=less. There are even Prezis about grammar, that can help you introduce a new concept to your students (for example, here is one about the article : http://prezi.com/i77ki1upsir3/the-article/). It is also a great way to give interactive, fun lectures (http://prezi.com/prezi-for-education/). 

So your Prezis are always available to your students. Just send them the link, et voilà ! What is great about this is the fact that students can always go back to the Prezis if they ever need to. If there is a test coming, and someone is struggling to remember what are the different types of article, they can just go back to the Prezi and revise the content. It’s really easy and accessible from basically anywhere. But this goes both ways. If your students create Prezis for assignments, you can also go back to see what they have done. Of course, for younger students, using Prezi might be more difficult (http://www.readwritethink.org/professional-development/strategy-guides/teaching-with-zooming-slideshows-30886.html). Why not create tutorials to help them ? There a lot on Youtube, or you can create your own. You could even create a Prezi about how to use Prezi. The resources are there, so why not use them ?

What is fun about a Prezi is that you don’t just have “slides” like in Powerpoint. You can literally “fly” between your bullet points and zoom on some to make stand out (http://www.bbcactive.com/BBCActiveIdeasandResources/UsingPreziInEducation.aspx). For students, it makes things simply easier. If you zoom on something in particular, they will know and understand that it is important. And you can use colors and pictures to make it more fun.

I really suggest you to try out Prezi. You may feel like betraying Powerpoint, your long-time friend, but even the founder of Powerpoint agrees with me. He said about Prezi that it is : “A marvelous approach to the visualization of information.” (http://prezi.com) Do you really need any other argument ?

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Blog Assignment #4

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Out of all the social networks that exist, I would say Tumblr is my favorite. It is a special place, where you can share pictures and videos and find other people with the same interests as you. You create your own blog, which becomes some sort of a little personal bubble that you can design and forge the way you want to. You can find everything on Tumblr – from cat jokes to philosophy essays to artistic portfolios. That’s what I love about it. Sometimes you may feel like you’re the only person on the planet who likes something – but you’ll find on Tumblr that it is absolutely not the case. 

When you sign up on Tumblr, you create a blog. You choose your URL, and then you can design it with different themes and different colors. You can even build it yourself if you know a little about HTML – but that’s quite a challenge. Once you’ve created your blog, you have your dashboard (it’s a little like the News Feeds on Facebook) and you can follow other blogs that are of interest to you. It’s that simple.

When I thought about using Tumblr in a classroom, I first said to myself : “Oh no. Bad idea. This website of crazy.” Because it is. But then I thought a little more, and I found some ideas. Then some more ideas. And now, I’m convinced that it can be a great tool to use in a classroom. (http://www.bizjournals.com/buffalo/print-edition/2012/01/06/teachers-students-find-tumblr-clicks.html?page=all) You can create a network of blogs for your class, for example. Why not ask your students to each create a blog and then to follow each other ? That way they can see what everyone else posts and shares. You can set up a “class blog”, ran by you, where you can post resources, pictures or videos to help the students for any assignment they might have. Like a group on Facebook, creating a small Tumblr network for your classroom can really be a great way to share important information or resources. Tumblr is especially great for pictures. 

Another great aspect of Tumblr is the “ask” option. Every blog has what Tumblr calls an “ask box”. When you go on somebody else’s blog, you can go on their ask box and write a question to them. The message will be sent directly to the person’s inbox, who will see a little red icon appearing on their dashboard, indicating they have a new message. They can answer the question, privately or publicly (if they choose this option, both the question and the answer will be posted on the blog as a post). This can be a great tool if the students have a question to ask their teachers – way easier than sending emails or waiting for next class.

Tumblr is full of weird blogs dedicated to weird stuff, such as cats wearing hats or to some extra in a popular television series, but it also full of blogs by creative and awesome people. Photographers, painters, sculpters, editors, graphists, the list goes on. Asking your students to go on Tumblr can be a great way to make them discover art and culture – and the website always has great suggestions for you. If you go on http://www.tumblr.com/spotlight/, the website randomly generates a category for you (for example : architecture) and suggests great blogs to you. You can also choose the category on the right sidebar if you have a specific assignement for the student. Why not make them follow interesting blogs about the subject to make them discover more about it ? (There’s even an ‘Education’ section !)

Tumblr is full of other resources. There is basically a blog for everything you might need. Your students need to get creative in their writing ? Suggest them http://awesomewritingprompts.tumblr.com. They are doing an art project and need resources ? There is a blog for that (http://artresourcecollection.tumblr.com). Many teachers have their own blog and share stuff for other teachers, like this one here (http://girlwithalessonplan.tumblr.com). There’s even a blog about Garfield comics… without Garfield (http://garfieldminusgarfield.net). I told you there was a blog for everything.

All jokes aside, I think Tumblr could be a great tool in the classroom (http://www.emergingedtech.com/2013/01/how-teachers-are-using-tumblr-in-the-classroom/). Of course, it would have to be used carefully, like every social network. There are some dark sides to Tumblr that you don’t want your students to see. You can always make them use an extension call XKit (http://xkit-extension.tumblr.com) which allows you to create blacklists (things you don’t want to see on your dashboard), but if you follow the right blogs nothing bad should happen. You can also ask your students to set up a password to the blogs, and give a class password, so that the classroom and only the classroom will have access to the blogs. 

Tumblr is one of many social networks, but I would recommend it because it is interactive, special, and fun. The students will be able to get creative and to have their own blog. Also, it is awesome. Do you need a better reason ? 🙂  

Blog Assignment #3

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One thing I know is that when I am a teacher, I want my students to read a lot. As a high school student, I read tons of books in my English classrooms and absolutely loved it, so much I often took initiative and read books by myself outside of class. Reading in English made me love English. I used to say that I was able to “read the authors’ true words”, not the translated ones. Reading an entire book in a language you are not completely familiar with is quite a challenge, especially when you are young, but it is a good way to learn quickly – and you are quite proud of yourself when you get through it.

 

That is why I think that using the website Goodreads in a classroom is a brilliant idea. Of course, it would be for a more advanced level – I don’t think it would suit elementary classes, but it is perfect for high school students. In short, Goodreads is a website where you can keep track of the books you’ve read, the books you want to read and the books you are reading. There are all the books in the world on this website – and you can put them in different lists, favorite them, and even review them. A lot of teachers have tried it out in their classrooms (http://pwillemse.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/using-goodreads-com-in-the-english-classroom/ and http://teachingcontext.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/goodreads-in-the-high-school-classroom/). For some it was a success, for others a failure, but I think that by using Goodreads in the good way, you can create some amazing activities for your students, and open their mind to the world of literature.

 

For example, why not ask the students, at the beginning of the school year, to create their “want-to-read” list of 4 or 5 books, and ask them to read them all by the end of the school year ? Of course, the books would have to be a certain length and to be approved by the teacher (and maybe make sure that the books are available at the school library or can be bought – or why not create a list of books and make the students choose in the list ?), but the students would have the opportunity to choose books they are interested in and will be motivated to read. As they read the books, they can update their status via the website. This is a good way for the teacher to see the students’ progress, so that you can encourage them and give them positive feedback if they do well. When they finish a book, they would need to write a short review, post in on Goodreads, and share them with the rest of the class.

 

The teacher could even ask for the books to be from different genres (fantasy, mystery, history, etc) so that the students could explore and find out what they like the most. It is also a good way to make them learn more (http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol5/511-kissner.aspx). On Goodreads, there is the possibility to create discussion groups, so the teacher could set one where the students could ask questions about the books, and maybe share their favorite quotes from what they read !

 

Why is reading important ? (http://inspirationboost.com/8-reasons-why-reading-is-so-important) It is an excellent way for students to learn new vocabulary. As a teacher, you can ask them to highlight or write down the words they don’t know when they come across them in a book, and create a list of new vocabulary. You can later ask them to define the new words and put them into context. Reading is also a good way to improve the students’ writing, because they are able to see real, meaningful sentences. It has been proven that reading has tons of positive effects on children (https://www.earlymoments.com/Promoting-Literacy-and-a-Love-of-Reading/Why-Reading-to-Children-is-Important/). Through reading, students acquire amazing experiences. As a teacher, it is important to open your students to things they might not be absolutely comfortable with, and push their limits to make them learn more. Setting, for example, a 5 book goal is a good way to do that. Create fun activities around the challenge, and it can become really meaningful for the students.

 

I believe Goodreads is a great tool for classrooms. By using it correctly, you will be able to make your students love reading and discovering new books, and also make them live a lot of adventures through the books they will read. Like the author George RR Martin said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies ; the man who never reads lives only one”.

 

Blog Assignment #2

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When someone mentions Google, we mostly think about the search engine. But truth is, the company has created a whole world around it.

You probably know about Gmail, where you can create your own email address. But what you probably don’t know is that this address opens you the doors of a dozen possibilities. Google bought YouTube in 2006 (http://www.nbcnews.com/id/15196982/ns/business-us_business/t/google-buys-youtube-billion/), and having a Gmail address enables you to have an account on Youtube, where you can comment and like videos, suscribe to channels and even upload your own personal videos. Having a Gmail address also gives you access to Google Play, where you can rent movies or buy apps (http://play.google.com/intl/ALL_us/about/overview/index.html), Google + (where you can share photos and chat with friends) and even Google Drive (free storage space).  In short, Google is a whole world, full of tools and possibilities. 

But what I want to talk about in this blog is Google Docs. Basically, this application enables you to share documents with other people. Sounds simple, right ? But what is amazing about Google Docs is that you can enable your friends to not only see  your documents, but also to edit them. So if you are in school, and you have a team project, you can simply put the paper on Google Docs and let your teammates add their own parts to the whole project. It is less complicated than always sending your parts by email, where it can get lost. Sharing your documents via Google Docs also means no more page layout problems. No more “this file is not compatible” popups. I find that pretty amazing. USA Today posted a review ((http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/08/31/review-google-apple-decent-contenders-to-office/2723315/) of Google Docs vs. programs like SkyDrive or even Microsoft Word. Who is the winner ? Google Docs.

Now why use Google Docs in a classroom ? The main reason, for me, is that it is easier. It is easier for you as a teacher, because you can have constant access to your students’ work. It is also a great tool for you to give them feedback (for example, write advice or corrections directly in the document, using another color). Instead of asking students to print out their work at each draft, and have dozens of copies on your desks, where some might get lost, you have them all on your computer, all in one place. It is also better for the environment. As a teacher, it is also a great way to give resources to your students. You can post articles or texts on the Google Drive and give your students access to them.  Google published a presentation on all the ways you can use Google Docs (and all the other tools by Google) in a classroom, and there are dozens (https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1OhZuPRWgT-eit2-c4yEER4epRC3IumbOcTH2saONMeg/present?slide=id.g323f8ef1_2_99).

Google Docs makes your life easier as a teacher. But it is also easier for your students. I personally used it during my years at CÉGEP, and it was very useful to me when I had to do projects in team. It is a way of always having your work somewhere, safe, where you will not lose it because your computer crashes or because your dog eats it (;-)). Also, Google Docs is great for team projects. Sometimes, it is hard to work with other people, because your schedules don’t match, or because one member of the team goes away for the weekend, or anything. But with Google Docs, you can share the work from anywhere, at anytime. It is easy to see your partners’ work, share advice and comment, and even correct each other to assure that your project is good and that you are proud of it. You can also use Google Docs to brainstorm while researching for a project (http://gettingsmart.com/2012/12/5-ways-to-use-google-docs-in-the-classroom/). 

There are dozens and dozens of ways to use Google Docs in a classroom (http://www.edudemic.com/50-little-known-ways-google-docs-can-help-in-education/), and not only for sharing documents purposes. You can create some interesting and meaningful activities with this tool, alongside with the rest of the applications that the “Google World” has to offer you. I think that it is a great way to help the students work efficiently, and also to help your work as a teacher. Why not try it out ?