Thursday, February 25, 2010

Two Great Ideas for Using Podcasts in the Classroom

Podcast Use #1: Allow parents to hear, from their child's own mouth, what went on in class today.
"So, what did you learn at school today?"
Now parents will actually know the answer to the question before they ask at the dinner table! My F block honors freshmen started researching various topics related to slavery in the American colonies during the 17th and 18th Centuries. Here are the results of their preliminary research today. After allowing them one class period to research certain online databases and the online textbook, I asked one representative from each group to talk about an interesting fact they learned today. Using a digital voice recorder, iTunes, and Audacity (an audio file editing program) I pulled their recordings together into a podcast. I posted this on our Edline class website and emailed a notification home so parents can check it out as well!

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Podcast Use #2: Provide students with step by step audio-visual instructions for tasks that are somewhat complex.
"Can you show me that again? I wasn't paying attention!"
"Mrs. Gallagher? I don't get it!"
These questions can be things of the past! As I plan for our next units on the Enlightenment and the American Revolution, I found a great analysis activity in a relatively obscure section of the ABC-CLIO database. While my students are familiar with using ABC-CLIO for research purposes, they have never quite used it in this new way. So, I typed up step by step directions AND recorded a video demonstration using SMART Recorder. Then I put it on our Edline class website so students can download and watch it whenever they find the time to do the assignments within the due date parameters.

Audio and visual instruction and news has become the standard in today's media-driven society. A classroom teacher that shares student work and explains instructions and concepts to students using these tools truly has a 21st century classroom that extends outside of the classroom walls.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Week in Paradise... WITHOUT the Internet

Over February Break my family took a trip that we have been planning for an entire year. We rented a beautiful three bedroom, three bathroom home in the mountains of Breckenridge, Colorado. There was even a hot tub on the deck for us to enjoy while the snowflakes danced around us in the steam coming off the bubbling water. We could take a short shuttle ride to the chairlift each day, and ski right to our door each afternoon when our legs were finally too tired to carry us down the mountain any more. We had everything we needed... full kitchen, washer and dryer, even a crib for my little daughter.

And yet... there was no wireless Internet connection. I can't tell you how many times my father said they words, "We could look it up if we had wireless!" He actually called the property management company and complained contending that wireless Internet access should be considered a basic amenity in resort accomodations. Finally, on the last night my brother worked a little magic and we "borrowed" some bandwidth from a nearby unsecured wireless network so we could check into our airline.

I have to admit I had a few anxieties about my lack of Internet access. Here are a few:

  1. I was unable to blog for the past two weeks. (The week before February break was a flurry of correcting, professional observations by my supervisors, visiting administrators from abroad, and more. I had planned to write my blog after arriving at our destination, until I found out that I had no Internet access and would be unable to do so.)
  2. I was unable to register my daughter for the mountain's daycare online. I actually had to flip open a telephone book, dial hte number, and speak to a real person on the phone to make the arrangements!
  3. We decided to spend one day skiing in Vail, Colorado. It was a 45 minute drive. Normally, we would look up the address online so that we could plug it into our GPS. Instead, we had to (again) open the phone book and find the address in print.
  4. I knew I would arrive home to copious emails for work. And I have to admit that it was a little overwhelming when I returned.

Despite the lack of a wireless connection, we managed to use technology to our advantage. We have a tradition of taking lots of pictures and video clips of each other while skiing, and then compiling them online to share with the rest of our family. This meant choosing some of the best shots and posting them in an album on Facebook for our distant relatives to view. We posted some of our video clips on YouTube so friends and family who subscribe to our accounts can see them. I also like to put together photobooks (using online tools like Kodak Gallery or Snapfish) and give them as gifts.

Here is a sample of one of our videos. This is my sister and I skiing the last part of a bowl at Vail called Lovers' Leap. My brother is the videographer. It is so named because you literally have to leap off a VERY steep edge to enter the bowl. I'm the one in the black.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Making 17th Century Absolute Monarchs Fun... with Google!

My Personal Challenge
I have been working hard to teach my students research and technology skills this year. My freshmen have learned:
- to read and summarize information from several sources;
- to create an annotated bibliography using Turabian format;
- to look up and use images from Creative Commons without violating copyright;
- to use Google Scholar to find reliable scholarly sources for research;
- to create a Google account and share editing privileges with multiple classmates;
- to link Google Presentations with Google Documents.

My goals for the rest of the year are for my students to be able:
- to properly quote and credit primary sources with endnotes;
- to write a research paper with a strong supported thesis;
- and to create a documentary with PhotoStory.

I think they can do it!

My Latest Challenge to My Students
Here is their latest research project using Google Applications:
They had to create a lesson, complete with visuals, a handout, and optional multimedia on an absolute ruler from Austria, Russia, or Prussia in the 17th century.
Click here for the requirements and grading rubric.

They Rose to the Challenge
The results were pretty impressive. I provided links to a couple of examples below. Note the last slide of their presentations where they linked their annotated bibliography, pictography, handout, and answer key. I'm looking forward to seeing the live presentations in class tomorrow!

Frederick II of Prussia

Peter the Great of Russia

The Hapsburgs: Charles VI & Maria Theresa