Monday, June 25, 2012

Quietube - Classroom Friendly Youtube


The prevalence of videos in our classrooms has undoubtably increased in recent years with video sites such as Youtube expanding at such a rapid rate.  On the education front, Youtube can offer anything from short digital stories that introduce a content unit, or entire online courses taught by professors from some of our most prestigious colleges and universities.  With the ability to subscribe to certain channels and communicate with the authors of videos through the various networking features, Youtube and other video sites like it have revolutionized classroom media.  And with the changing setup of our classrooms (out with the TV cart, in with the Promethium Boards), we have pretty much instant access to millions of educational videos all day everyday.

However, as with many of the resources we find on the internet, user beware.  Along with the very informational video on climate change, you may find videos that are not so great, such as "kittens are fuzzy", "world's biggest back zit", or "baby dances to Beyonce".  And while these videos may be fairly G rated, sometimes when we search for educational videos, the "suggested videos" on the sidebar may not be so educational or appropriate.  Also, since most of these videos can be commented on, we have to be careful that none of the comments might be offensive for our student viewers.  We do not have the ability to control what videos other users may post, or what comments they make, but we do have the ability to control what our students do and do not view on these sites.

Quietube is an add-on for web browsers that removes all of the suggested videos on the Youtube sidebar.  It also removes the comments from beneath the video.  To use Quietube, simple go to http://quietube.com/ and follow the on screen directions.  Simply drag the button up to your add-on toolbar in your browser (you may need to adjust your browser settings to view your add-on toolbar).  Then, when you go to Youtube and click on a video to use in your classroom, click on the Quietube button in your toolbar.  It will then open the video you chose in a new browser window without all of the extra garbage surrounding the video.  It works pretty slick and saves you from potential problems in the classroom.  Try it out!

Screenshot without Quietube
(Used with permission (c) 2012)
Screenshot with Quietube
(Used with permission (c) 2012)
Quietube website
(Used with permission (c) 2012)

*All images used with permission: All images submitted by Author.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pintrest

(Used with permission (c) 2012)
Today I was introduced to Pintrest, a social network that functions as a sort of electronic bulletin board where users can share recipes, websites, classroom resources, pictures, and lots of other resources from vintage art posters to workout routines.  Most of the "pins" take you to external websites via hyperlinks.  

It's fairly easy to get started.  You begin by requesting an invite from the Pintrest website.  After receiving your invite by email, you can begin setting up your profile with personalization options much like other social networking sites.  A convenient feature is that you can link your Pintrest account to either your Facebook profile, your Twitter account, or both.  This synchronizes your information for you and allows you to post to the other social networking sites via Pintrest, allowing the spread of information and resources to be simpler and more streamlined, while also reaching more people.

(Used with permission (c) 2012)
After creating your profile, you will be prompted to choose a couple subjects that interest you.  Pintrest will then automatically have you "follow" a few other users with similar interests.  You have the option to continue following these people, or can unfollow them using a similar interface to Twitter.  For those users you follow, and for those who follow you, the things they have most recently pinned to their various boards will appear on your home screen each time you log in, allowing you to Re-Pin anything that you would like to keep for yourself and share with your followers.  Each time you "pin" something to one of your fully customizable boards, you have the option to immediately Tweet about your new pin, allowing you to continue spreading information to those not currently using Pintrest.  You also have the option to comment about each pin to help you know what you'll find within each pin.  This makes it much easier to keep everything organized.

(Used with permission (c) 2012)
I see Pintrest as having great potential for educators, as many teachers have already pinned links to resource websites, posted tips for crafts and projects, and given reviews and suggestions of educational technology to use in the classroom.  Using the "Follow" feature to connect with other educators, Pintrest allows you even more opportunities for networking and sharing ideas with colleagues both in your school, and around the world.  In many ways, Pintrest operates as both the demonstration booths at conferences and conventions, the teacher's lounge/water cooler, and also the teacher book and supply store all in one.  But in addition to the resources themselves, you are also directly connected to the creators of these resources whom you can ask for more ideas and talk to them about what has made these resources so successful.  It takes no time at all to find hundreds of applications for technology in your classroom or hundreds of beginning of the year community building activities.  Here is a picture of my Educational Technology board.  Here I have posted lots of resources that I can go back and browse through to find new applications for educational technology that I can use in my classroom.

In many ways, Pintrest is a graphic representation of the social bookmarking function of Diigo and other browsers that allow you to see, save, and share resources with your personal learning network.  So check it out!  If you would like to follow me on Pintrest, I would love to share resources with you.  You can find my profile Here.

*All images used with permission: All images submitted by Author.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Reading Rainbow iPad App Review

(Used with permission (c) 2012)
I thought I would follow up my last post on my discovery of the Reading Rainbow app for iPad with my reflections of the app itself.  I got the chance to work with it a little bit last night and my feelings are mixed.  For some basic cursory information on the app, check out the post that I published just previous to this one.

(Used with permission (c) 2012)
First, the app looks very promising.  It's a free app that's easily downloadable from the Apple App Store.  It's colorful and interactive.  It begins with a short opening akin to the original television show.  It then takes the user to a short introductory video of LeVar Burton, the creator of Reading Rainbow, explaining how to get started using the app itself.  Next, the user is guided through a series of steps to personalize the app by creating an avitar of themselves by entering their age, and several subjects of books they like to read.  After the beginning personalization is complete, you come to a page that invites the child user to enter their parent's email address so that parents can keep track of what and how much/often their child is reading on the app.  This feature is pretty neat.  However, unlike the free public television sponsored TV show, it also gives the option to subscribe and create your Membership with payment options.  These options are either to pay $9.99 monthly to read unlimited books, or pay for six months (introductory offer) for $29.99.  You can however choose to bypass at first and receive one free book to add to your "backpack".

(Used with permission (c) 2012)
Being the college student on the limited budget that I am, I opted for this route.  I was then guided in my hot air balloon to view five different islands that I could explore.  After clicking on the first island, "Action, Adventures & Magical Tales", I was taken to a new screen that looked much like most other electronic book shelves, such as iBooks or Newsstand.  Here you can browse through children's books that have to do with, you guessed it, "Action, Adventures & Magical Tales".  Below the books are a set of educational videos that are narrated by LeVar, much like the short segments in the original television show.  I chose a book called The Searcher and Old Tree.  After clicking the book, the app brought up a new screen showing the book and giving a short description asking me if I wanted to "get this book?".  Upon clicking yes, the book was added to my backpack.

In my backpack there was room for five books.  If my backpack ever became too full (more than five books), I could click and drag a book to the "Book Return", just like at a library.  Then I would free up more space to download more books from the various islands.  I decided to read through my new free book, The Searcher and Old Tree.  I had the option to read it myself, or to have pre recorded narration guide me through the book.  I had LeVar read the book to me.  On most of the pages, there were things to click on that would bring part of the illustration to life.  This was pretty cool.  Kids at home and students in class would love it.  I had the option to turn of the narration at any time, and I could also close the book and return it to my backpack at any time.  Along with each book is corresponding games, videos, and activities.  My book had a corresponding game of concentration or matching which was creative and fun.

Applications for the Classroom: I could see this app being very useful in the classroom in a 1 to 1 setting where students are connecteted with iPads.  Another neat way to use this app would be to pair it with another app/technology such as the Splashtop Streamer.  This technology pairs Splashtop and allows the teacher to "splash" a duplicate copy of his or her iPad screen onto a projector screen wirelessly from anywhere in their classroom.  This would allow the entire class to experience the books, videos, and activities together.  In addition to the books and games, LaVar takes kids on educational electronic field trips.  With school budgets as pinched as they are, electronic field trips can be a very affordable alternative.

(Used with permission
(c) 2012)
(Used with permission (c) 2012)
The "Pros" of this app are its creative approach to reading.  It gets books into the hands of children through a medium that is exciting and interactive.  We live in a digital age where electronic books have outsold hardcopy books.  It makes complete sense to encourage our kids to read using apps like this one.  The "Con" is that this app is not truly 'free'.  However, a $9.99 membership to an expanding set of interactive books for children is certainly not unreasonable.  It's less than most children's books are at your local bookstore, but more expensive than a trip to the public library.  Personally, I really like the app and hope that LeVar Burton and friends continue to expand the app to include more and more educational materials.  I grew up loving the show and loving how exciting reading became.  I encourage everyone to check out the app for yourself and soar off to new exciting islands of "Action Adventures, & Magical Tales".  But you don't have to take my word for it!

*All images used with permission: All photos submitted by author

Friday, June 22, 2012

Reading Rainbow App for iPad

(Used With Permission)
I came to the iPad party rather late but have done my best to catch up on all of the marvelous apps that can be downloaded and used; many that can be used (and are even designed specifically) for education.  Today while on twitter, a tweet caught my eye that LaVar Burton had recently come out with an iPad app that mimics his once enormously popular (but sadly now canceled) children's television show, "Reading Rainbow".  I have not yet been able to download the app for iPad, but I am very eager to check it out.  Here is a video of LaVar Burton talking with Forbes magazine's Jeff Bercovici about the new app for iPad!  You can find the description of the app and can purchase the app from the Apple App Store.



The app itself looks very colorful and allows students to interact with the book itself by reading on their own and also through guided readings, much like the guided narrations from the television show.  It combines the best in functionality of the iPad with the magic of reading.  As electronic book sales have now surpassed print books, its only logical for children's books to also follow that trend and advance with the times.  I am very excited to look more at this app!

*All images used with permission: "Butterfly" - Public Domain - http://www.pdphoto.org

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

High School 2.0

I recently read an article about online high school classes.  After being a college student, I am well acquainted with online classes.  I feel I have a pretty good idea about their strengths and shortcomings and agree that they certainly have a place in the curriculum.  However, I had not thought much about online courses at the k-12 level. 

The article was The Teacher You've Never Met: Inside and Online High School Class written by Nick Pandolfo on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 for Time magazine.  Here is a link to the article, I encourage you to read it for yourself: The Teacher You've Never Met.  This article is an interview with Jane Good, a teacher with JeffCo Public Schools.  She talks about some of the challenges she has faced as a teacher adapting to teaching online, as well as the challenges that she has faced in working with students and parents on an entirely online system. 

(Used with permission (c) 2012)
Good has about 125 students, 50 of whom study with Good full time.  Students actively participate in class by "raising their hand" and "addressing the class" through clicking buttons and typing or video conferencing with classmates.  In some ways it seems that it has the opportunity to be moderated better than a traditional brick and mortar setting, but in application it appears that questions pile up faster than Good can address them.  Some students who might fall to the back of the class and stay quiet or shy might opt for taking classes like this that do not force them to speak up, but Good fears that this will only compound the problems of shyness and allow students to fall further behind.  Without being able to meet with the student face to face, some students fall through the cracks.

Some students are taking most or all of their high school coursework online, and many elementary and junior high students are taking online classes as well.  This is a far cry from the traditional setting that many of us experienced in our elementary and secondary educations.  But is it comparable?  What are the advantages?  What are the setbacks?

It seems to me that online classes should be allowed in the k-12 setting for specialized classes that would not be economical for traditional schools to provide for students.  Advanced physics taught by a college professor to several high schools in an area would be a logical application considering that not very many students from each school would likely attend, making a combined class a good solution.  Certain classes could certainly be taught online, including courses over technology literacy for example.  However, a 5th grade language arts course or a 3rd grade homeroom course (many general subjects taught) may not be a very successful setting for online instruction.  Freshman speech class may lose some of its effectiveness if students are delivering speeches via recording rather than learning how to speak in front of an audience.

(Used with permission (c) Val Vannet)
Online instruction also has the setback of not allowing students to establish lasting relationships with other students or with other teachers.  It does very little for teaching discipline, respect, values, social skills, etc. that students often experience in elementary and secondary education.  And what about other courses such as music (band/choir), art, or physical education?  Can reasonable substitutes be made for those courses if public school education at the k-12 level were to migrate to a fully online system?

All in all, I see many benefits for online classes, in fact I would advocate requiring several courses to be taken online throughout a students elementary and secondary education in order to prepare them for online courses in their post-secondary education.  However I see some major problems to offering entire elementary and secondary educations online, away from the traditional brick and mortar setting.  Perhaps a compromise can be reached with public schools offering hybrid courses that bring in the best of the benefits of online learning while still in the traditional brick an mortar setting.  Lots of things are changing very rapidly in education.  Where will we find ourselves in five years?  In ten?

*All Images used with permission.
"Online Learning" - Submitted by Author
"Monifieth High School" - http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/9701