Category Archives: Mobile Learning

Free Vector Software: Best Editor and Drawing Tools

Looking for inexpensive ways to create VECTORS or scaleable graphics? Here are some amazing FREE or nearly free tools to get the job done… Hands down winner for features is Inkscape but it’s definitely fussy to learn and I would choose Vectr if you’re just getting started.

 


Paying $500+ for a new CorelDRAW Suite may not be the best investment for a graphic designer, especially a beginner. The same goes for Adobe’s stingy subscriptions. Give or take, most graphic design tools are built on the same principles. And more often than not, we need to create something simple and effective – an icon for our website, a logo, or just have some fun with vector art. Even for serious vector art, we probably never use all the fancy features big companies throw at us.

Thankfully, there is a free vector software that allows us to do what we want. In this article, we will cover the most popular and effective of ones.

Inkscape

Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux
Download link: inkscape.org

Inkscape is often called the GIMP of vector apps. It’s an open-source program with plenty of features that make you wonder why people aren’t selling it. And yet, it’s completely free. The app was released in 2003, and since then has become one of the most popular vector graphics software programs in the world. It’s available in 90 languages and across many platforms, including OS X and Linux.

The node workflow in Inkscape is similar to that of Adobe Illustrator and allows adding new nodes, as well as moving and editing them.

Helpful features like node aligning and symmetry are also available to use. Bezier curves and pencil tools work smoothly with graphic tablets, allowing users to create hand-drawn vector images of any complexity.

Inkscape also has image bitmap tracing, which is for converting rasterized images into vector paths. However, the feature is not as advanced as the one in Adobe Illustrator, and you may need some extra manipulations to make it work, or you’ll have to trace it manually.

Inkscape supports all popular formats, including SVG, EPS, JPG, PNG, PostScript and others.
The list of features the app has is beyond listing, and chances are it can do pretty much everything paid programs like Adobe Illustrator can do.

Full video tutorial here by Logos By Nick

At the very least Inkscape is nearly as good as Adobe Illustrator. Both programs share a very similar workflow and if you’re used to one of them, it makes it easier to make the switch. For logo designs and creating vector graphics, there won’t be much difference in whichever one of you use, apart from having an extra buck to spend on something else.

Tutorials: Inkscape’s website offers a wide variety of tutorials from beginner to advanced here. We also recommend Logos by Nick’s Youtube channel – it offers many excellent tips and workflows from a practicing designer.

Pros:

  • Many features, solid AI alternative
  • Works smoothly with tablets
  • Multiple platforms (Linux included)
  • Extensions

Cons:

  • Rare performance issues with big files
  • Some features are not intuitive – tutorials are needed

Vectr

Platform: Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Chrome OS, Web
Download link: vectr.com

Unlike Inkscape, Vectr is fresh blood in the yard. Which is good, because it means the development is shifted by industry demands, and not by the curse of bloatware.

This free vector art program was released just two years ago, but the pace of its development is truly magnificent. With all the features added recently, it’s hard to imagine what this product could be capable of in the future. However, developers are pressing that one thing stays unchanged – it will be forever free.

To compare Vectr and Inkscape is to make a great mistake – these two products are both in a league of their own. What Vectr lacks in features, it compensates for in intuitiveness. The learning curve on the program is non-existent: if you’re just starting in the design industry, you may be able to create your very first logo in five minutes after you start the program without having to skim through pages of tutorials.

Another advantage of the app is ubiquity – not only is it available on all popular platforms, but it also has a browser version with the same functionality as its desktop counterpart. That means you can work on your designs on your PC and then finish them in an internet cafe in the middle of nowhere.

From Vectr official website

The app allows all standard vector operations – creating and editing geometry shapes, curves, and paths. It supports multiple layers and pages, letting you organize your project. Vectr allows imports in AI, EPS, SVG, PNG, and JPEG file formats.

Another useful feature is the ability to share your projects simply by sending a URL to your colleagues, letting them view and edit it in a workflow similar to Google Docs. The development of full-scale collaboration with multiple people working on the same project simultaneously is currently underway, along with Marketplace and Versioning. You can literally watch the Vectr team’s backlog in the Open Roadmap.

Tutorials: vectr.com/tutorials

Pros:

    • Cross-platform and browser versions
    • Intuitive, easy to use interface
    • Easy sharing of projects
    • Integration with WordPress

    Cons:

    • Need to create an account
    • Some people report crashes – the new features may be unstable
    • Lacks advanced features

    Gravit Designer

    Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, Chrome OS, Web
    Download link: designer.io

    We might be a bit subjective here. After all, Gravit used our icons. However, Gravit’s developers have much more to offer than having good taste.

    On a feature-wise specter, Gravit falls precisely between Inkscape and Vectr. It has more features than the latter while staying as intuitive as the former. And, like all the apps mentioned in this article, it comes with no price attached. Talk about balance.

    The app allows you to do everything you would expect from a vector software program: Create curves, edit paths, manage layers and use the knife function. It supports SVG, PDF, JPEG,.SKETCH and recently, EPS (finally!) formats for import and export. In addition, you can work on your projects across different platforms; Gravit Cloud allows seamless transition of files between desktop and online versions. A portable version is also available.

    Among the other handy things that Gravit features, there are vector assets that are available within the app. Gravit Designer’s library of assets includes icons, shapes, emojis, and illustrations – all of which can be combined and modified for commercial and non-commercial use.

    Even though the tool is free (according to developers, “there will definitely be areas in Gravit Designer in the foreseeable future, or areas surrounding Gravit Designer, that are subject to a charge”), bugs are being fixed and the most voted for features are being developed. You can see a full description of the new features in the Gravit Designer developers’ blog, along with a bunch of cool tutorials.

    Tutorials: Youtube Playlist

    Pros:

    • Huge library of vector assets out-of-box
    • Intuitive UI and workflow
    • Browser and cross-platform versions, all connected with cloud

    Cons:

    • Not yet clear what features will stay free in the future
    • No advanced features like the ones that can be found in AE or Inkscape

    SVG-edit

    Platform: Web
    Download link: https://github.com/SVG-Edit/svgedit

    SVG-edit is one of those tools that does exactly what their name suggests: It allows you to edit SVG’s, and create your own. It’s an online free vector program that is available in most popular browsers.

    The feature set is standard: Create shapes, draw with a pencil, convert lines to paths, colorize and add images. The result can be exported into popular web formats: WMP, JPG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, and of course SVG itself. The interface is pretty straightforward and reminds you of painting programs from the early 2000’s – nothing fancy here.

    One of the advantages of SVG-edit is that this open-source program can be easily embedded into your website, allowing your users to create and edit SVG’s of their own. The tool also allows you to quickly export results as HTML-code.

    Even though SVG-edit lacks features in comparison to apps mentioned earlier in this article, it still can be useful in some cases – especially for web developers. Freely available Github repository allows modifying the source code to your needs. Another plus would be that the tool is constantly being updated.

    Tutorials: Github

    Pros:

    • Simple, quick to use
    • Open-source web code

    Cons:

    • Lacks advanced features
    • Node-management is not perfect

    Honorable mentions

    Not a vector drawing software itself, but RollApp allows you to run some popular desktop apps online, in your browser. One, in particular, is Inkscape. So if Inkscape being only desktop was the only thing stopping you from using it, RollApp will seal the deal.

    This web tool really has some 90’s vibes to it. But if you’re a fan, give it a try. It’s available for free and there are enough features to make logos or other fancy web graphics. However, if you consider using FatPaint for commercial purposes, developers kindly ask to support them with a Pro subscription.

    A free web vector editor to create vector images. It allows export in SVG, PNG and JPEG. The clean UI is a bonus. It features everything you need to create a logo or an icon inside your browser.

    A graphics editor available for Windows, macOS and Linux. It’s primarily used for building math graphs and illustrations (the ones you often see in school math books). But if you feel like life is not hard enough yet, you can try drawing vector art using this tool.

    If you’re interested in free raster drawing software, check out our Best Free Drawing Software: Five Candidates article

    Have an interesting article to share with our readers? Let’s get it published.

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8 Tried and True Edtech Tools to Try in 2018

Steve Dembo on episode 222 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Sometimes the best tools have been around awhile. Steve Dembo @teach42 talks about the tried and true tools that teachers should still use.

8 edtech tools to try in 2018

Richard Byrne, author of Free Technology for Teachers has several online professional development options  to check out: GSuite for Teachers, Teaching History with Technology, and Practical Edtech Coaching.

See all of Richard’s Courses at http://ift.tt/2lomeMO. Richard is not a sponsor of the show, however I am an affiliate.

Listen Now


Enhanced Transcript

Tried and True Edtech Tools to Try in 2018

Link to show: http://ift.tt/2CcldyH
Date: January 2, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with my friend, Steve Dembo @teach42, coauthor of Untangling the Web. He was one of my first blogs that I read, and first podcasts I listened to.

Steve, today for Ed Tech Tool Tuesday, what are some things that people need to try in 2018? Do we need to always be doing the new latest and greatest, or are there some things that maybe we might need to dust off?

Why Time-Tested Tried and True Tools Are So Useful

Steve: Well, I think it’s interesting, because a lot of times when people go to conferences, they’re always seeking out, “What are the ones I haven’t heard of before?” They’re looking for something new and shiny and sexy and so on.

But the reality is, the new ones are sometimes the ones that aren’t necessarily well established, that don’t necessarily have a good financial plan in place. They’re the ones that you can’t necessarily depend on still being there Monday when you want to start using it with students.

And yet, there are all of these great tried and true Web 2.0 tools, or online technologies that not only have a firm financial plan in place or they will withstand the test of time, and they’ve actually been well developed over the year, with new features and so on.

I think sometimes people — instead of focusing on what’s new and what they haven’t seen before — they need to be focusing more on making better and more effective use of the ones that are well established.

Vicki: OK, give us some of those well established.

Tool #1 Padlet

Steve: Well, I’ll take Padlet.

I think Padlet is a perfect first example because everybody kind of knows what it does. For a little while, everybody was talking about it because it was the greatest, newest, shiniest thing.

And yet nobody really talks about it much anymore. There’s an entire generation of teachers that aren’t familiar with Padlet because nobody’s evangelizing it anymore.

And, they have done a phenomenal job of upgrading it over time, of adding more educational-friendly features, of adding things like commenting, adding new layouts and columns and so on. So it can function sort of like a Trello, where you can have upvoting ala Reddit, making it a lot more interactive and kind of changing the nature of the way these Padlets can function so that it can fit a lot more needs.

And yet, a lot of people think, “Oh, I’m familiar with Padlet, or I’m familiar with Wallwisher,” (note: Wallwisher is now Padlet) and they don’t take the time to go explore, “What can it do for me NOW?”

Vicki: OH, and it’s such a fantastic tool to use. I don’t know why we keep thinking we have to use what’s new instead of using what absolutely just works, rock solid.

Are there any other rock-solid examples besides Padlet?

Tool #2: VoiceThread

Steve: You know, it’s funny because there are some that are very, very solid and dependable, like VoiceThread that haven’t necessarily evolved all that much,

Tool #3: WeVideo

and then you take others like WeVideo that have just done and an even better job of establishing really great business plans.

You know, they’re making most of their money on the personal accounts, on the business accounts, on the enterprise accounts and so on, which means that they can offer educators even more features for free and they keep on adding things in there, too.

One of the things that they added recently that I love is this “motion graphics” element. It’s basically like an after-effects, in a sense. And you can do some really incredibly brilliant and subtle things in it. If you really want to get creative and push the envelope, you can do some really mind-blowing green screen type things with the motion graphics. It’s one of the most full-featured video editing products out there, and considering that it will work on a Chromebook is just amazing.

Vicki: Yeah. It brings video in the reach of everybody, doesn’t it?

What else do you have?

Tool #4 Kahoot

Steve: Well, let’s see. A lot of times what I like is these ones that are doing consistent development. They’re listening to users and really putting in the features that the users are requesting and wanting to see. Kahoot has done a very nice job of that.

Tool #5: Sutori

One of the other ones that has kind of flown under the radar is a site called Sutori. Sutori has now been around for about I think a year and a half, maybe even almost two years. It kind of defies definition. It’s sort of created its own genre.

But what I really love about it is that they’ve got new features that are coming out every two or three months, and they’re all in direct response to the things that educators have been asking. That’s one of the things I demonstrate when I show this in presentations.

A lot of times people don’t really think the developers want to hear from educators, or that it’s going to have much of an impact. What they don’t realize is that a lot of these online ed tech tools — they’re teams of three or four people. The people who are answering the support questions are the same people who are doing the primary development on them.

So when you say to the support person in the chat room, “I’d like to see this feature,” or “If you did this, then I could use it with my students,” you’re talking to the people who can actually make that happen! So that’s another one that I’ve become a huge fan of.

Vicki: So Kahoot obviously helps us do quizzes, and our students can make them, and that’s awesome.

So Sutori… Is that really more for vocabulary? I haven’t used it.

Steve: No, it’s sort of… a way to sort of publish stories but in a sort of linear fashion. It’s sort of like a timeline, but it’s not a timeline because there aren’t necessarily and numbers. It almost defies definition, but it’s a way to publish something almost like a blog except that it is actually interactive. It can be collaborative ala Google Docs style.

If you’re not familiar with it yet, you should definitely — if nothing else — go to the website and look at their gallery. Their gallery has an excellent selection of great examples that would appeal to educators. One of the other nice things about it is that you can take any one of those, copy it to your own account, and use them as templates and just modify them to your heart’s content.

Tool #6: Wordle

Vicki: Now, before the show, you were even talking about Wordle. I mean, how can you explain that? That’s such a powerful tool, and I use it all the time with my students.

Steve: (laughs)

Wordle is sort of my litmus test. Now Wordle hasn’t changed one iota from the very beginning, which a lot of people can appreciate because we all know what it’s like when you pull it up on Monday with the students and all of a sudden it looks completely different. Wordle’s not going to.

But what I find ironic — that sort of encapsulates this whole problem of people only evangelizing the newest items in the tech scene — is that as soon as everybody’s familiar with it (and when I say everybody, I mean the people that are hanging out in Twitter chats, the people that go to ISTE, the people that go to the affiliate conferences) as soon as everybody knows about a web tool, most of those people stop talking about it, they stop blogging about it, they stop sharing it in presentations.

The net result is that when I go into schools and I talk to teachers and I talk to educators in general, I would estimate that more than half of them haven’t heard of Wordle. Most of them just have never even seen it, because no one’s taking the time to share it anymore because it’s not new to them.

Tool #7 & 8 WordPress and Edublogs

It’s sort of the reason why it doesn’t seem new and sexy to talk about blogging or to evangelize blogging anymore or show people how to use EduBlog, or how to use WordPress. And yet, you know what? There’s still a need for it.

Vicki: (agrees)

Steve: It may not be the newest and freshest thing in the world, but there’s still this whole generation of teachers that didn’t get the same exposure to it and haven’t had the same journey that we have.

Vicki: Well, when I do my “Fifty-Plus Tools” presentation, I always show how you can go on Wikitext and you can pull out, say, the Emancipation Proclamation, and you can put it into Wordle, and you really frontload that vocabulary. It’s such an important teaching technique, whatever you’re teaching, particularly if the subject you’re teaching is on public domain, and you can pull the text out and put it in there. It’s just a fantastic method.

So, Steve, as we finish up, what kind of inspiration do you have for educators who feel overwhelmed by all of this ed tech, to get started and try something new?

Inspiration for Overwhelmed Teachers

Steve: (laughs)

Well, the first thing to keep in mind is… I love doing this exercise during a presentation… I ask people to just raise their hands if they feel like they’re behind the technology curve. And nearly two-thirds to three-quarters of the audience will raise their hand.

The reality is that every single one of those people — just by being at a tech conference, by listening to podcasts like yours — you’re ahead of the technology curve. You’re far more tech-savvy than most other people, most other educators that are just… I don’t want to say just punching the card and going through the routine… but who aren’t necessarily seeking out new sources of professional development.

So first of all, I strongly urge people not to be so critical of themselves. But then it’s the traditional, “You have to make the time to do it.” There will never be a time when you say, “Boy! What am I going to do with all this extra free time that I have?

Vicki: (laughs)

Steve: It just doesn’t happen!

Vicki: No, it doesn’t.

Steve: So you have to schedule yourself that time. You have to build it in and say, “For this hour, I’m going to play. Because play is going to make me a better educator.” And not force yourself to feel guilty for not taking the time to play with a new technology.

Vicki: Yes, and as I always say innovate like a turtle. Take tiny little steps forward every day, because it’s about forward progress. We can all learn something new. Now I’m going to be playing with Sutori, so I’ve learned something new today.

Thank you so much, Steve. We will put all of your information in the Shownotes so folks can follow you.

Steve: Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

kymberlimulford@gmail.com

Steve Dembo Bio as submitted


A pioneer in the field of educational social networking, Dembo was among the first to realize the power of blogging, podcasting, Twitter, and other Web 2.0 technologies in connecting educators and creating professional learning communities.

Steve Dembo served for ten years as Discovery Education’s Director of Learning Communities and led their Innovation and Strategy team. He is the co-author of the book Untangling the Web: 20 Tools to Power Up Your Teaching. The National School Board Association named him one of 2010’s “Twenty to Watch,” a list honoring individuals finding innovative ways to use technology to increase classroom learning. In 2013 he began serving the Skokie/Morton Grove District 69 as a member of the School Board. Dembo is a course designer and adjunct professor for Wilkes University where he serves as class instructor for the Internet Tools for Teaching course within the Instructional Media degree program.

Steve Dembo is also a dynamic speaker on the capabilities of social networking, the power of educational technologies and Web 2.0 tools, and the ability of digital content to empower teachers to improve student achievement. He has delivered keynotes and featured presentations at dozens of conferences globally including ISTE, TCEA, FETC, MACUL, GaETC, METC, CUE, ICE, TEDxCorpus Christi, #140Edu, EduWeb, .EDU and the Social Media Masters Summit. Dembo was also a featured panelist at Nokia Open Labs as an expert on mobile device integration in education.

Blog: http://teach42.com

Twitter: @teach42

Disclosure of Material Connection: This episode mentions an affiliate program. This means that if you choose to buy I will be paid a commission on the affiliate program. However, this is at no additional cost to you.  Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post 8 Tried and True Edtech Tools to Try in 2018 appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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Today’s news: Real or fake? [Infographic]

Today Students have a blizzard of information at the ready: on devices in their pockets, at school, in their homes, by their bedsides on their wrists… It’s almost a constant information “on” world.

Information and content floods to their eyes and ears in never-ending streams, torrents, downloads, feeds, & casts. How do they determine what is real an what is not. What matters and what doesn’t? Here’s a cheat sheet to help out.


At a time when misinformation and fake news spread like wildfire online, the critical need for media literacy education has never been more pronounced. The evidence is in the data:

  • 80% of middle schoolers mistake sponsored content for real news.
  • 3 in 4 students can’t distinguish between real and fake news on Facebook.
  • Fewer than 1 in 3 students are skeptical of biased news sources.

Students who meet the ISTE Standards for Students are able to critically select, evaluate and synthesize digital resources. That means understanding the difference between real and fake news.

There are several factors students should consider when evaluating the validity of news and resources online. Use the infographic below to help your students understand how to tell them apart.

Click on the infographic to open a printable PDF.

Media-Literacy_Real-News-Infographic_11_2017

Learn more about teaching K-12 students how to evaluate and interpret media messages in the book Media Literacy in the K-12 Classroom by Frank Baker.

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How to Create Graphic Organizers for Seesaw – Igniting Learners into Leaders

This is an interesting article that describes in some detail how Seesaw Activities can be a holding area for useful graphic organizers for learning & learners.

These ideas have been developed by Melissa Burnell who is in her 13th year of trying to brighten the futures of her amazing learners! She’s taught in the USA for five years before moving to Dubai, then China, and now she calls South Korea home. She approaches learning with inquiry and a growth mindset.

What is impressive is the ease with which these organizers are created and deployed to her students. These organizers could also be co-created based on criteria or intents developed in class. Or they could have differentiated easily enough within the Seesaw environment simply selecting a subset of students to deploy the activity too.

 

 

70522f2d-e3d5-4ffc-b1d9-f1c393be0275-1497632617967 (1)

Disclaimer: If you want to read about the WHY behind designing custom graphic organizers in my class, keep reading.  I like to talk, so if you want to go straight to the instructions, scroll down!

This is the first year that I have had the opportunity to guide my learners through Project Time, sometimes know as Genius Hour or Passion Project.  If you are not familiar with this, Project Time is one period a week in which learners have the freedom to learn about something that speaks to them, or interests them, and probably wouldn’t appear in the usual units taught in the classroom.  Maybe a students wants to know more about composing music, or harp seals, or making slime.  As long as learners have a purpose in mind and are working towards their goals, it’s doable!  Pretty cool if you ask me.

I was eager to jump on the Project Time bandwagon at the start of the year and was happy to have some help getting started with organization thanks to Kath Murdoch’s The Power of Inquiry (a must read for any inquiry teacher!).  She includes several great tools in her book to get learners on the right track to be purposeful in their personal inquiries.

As Project Time got underway in my classroom, I found myself running to the photocopier more than I wanted.  Two students wanted to change their project topics–go copy.  Another student can’t find her daily planning sheet–go copy.  And each week daily planning sheets needed to be handed out again.  Plus, with learners working at their own pace, new project proposal sheets needed to be made at different times.  I knew there had to be a better way to avoid this headache.

My first attempt at going digital was to ask my class to hop onto Seesaw and add a quick post at the end of each Project Time period to let me know what they accomplished and what their next steps were.  Not bad, but this only cut down my paperwork a little bit.  I needed to do something more.

When I became a Seesaw Ambassador this year, I remembered coming across a slideshow containing different graphic organizers that could be used for Seesaw.  Aha!  I could create my own and go completely digital!

I used Kath Murdoch’s graphic organizers from her book and recreated them with small changes to the spaces for student input.  Here are the final products:

Project Time- Seesaw OrganizersProject Time- Seesaw Organizers (1)

I wanted to make sure it worked the way I hoped it would, so using Seesaw’s file upload option and the abilities to add text and draw, I was able to do this:

Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 7.20.14 PM

BINGO!  Now I have a solution to paper waste and wasted time!  The beauty is that you can custom make ANY kind of graphic organizer you want for you learners.

Here’s how:

1.)  Use Google Slides, PowerPoint, or Keynote to make your custom graphic organizer template.  For mine, I used Google Slides and added lines, shapes, images, and text boxes to create the desired look.  I started with a blank layout, changed the background color, and built up from there.

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 8.25.11 PM

2.)  Once your graphic organizer is made, save it as a JPEG image.

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 8.26.52 PM

3.)  Now open Seesaw.  In Seesaw, choose the green add button to add a new item and choose the option to Share Activity.

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 8.35.45 PM.png

4.)  Choose Create New to create a custom activity for your class/group of students/individuals.

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 8.38.10 PM.png

5.)  Fill in the information for the new activity.  Choose “Add template for students to edit.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 8.42.12 PM.png

6.)  Choose the option to Add File.  This is where you will upload your custom graphic organizer.  Choose your file from your device.

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 8.44.14 PM.png

7.)  After you have selected the file, click the green check button.

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 8.47.58 PM.png

8.)  On the next screen, you can either choose the green check button, or if you want to add further information, choose one of the options at the bottom of the screen.

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 8.56.11 PM

9.)  Next, either choose to Preview the activity or Save as Draft.

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 8.56.24 PM

10.)  Finally, choose the green Share button at the bottom of the screen.

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 8.56.37 PM

11.)  When your learners open the activity in Seesaw, they will have the option to add text anywhere on the graphic organizer and draw/write their responses.  It’s that easy!

If you want to use a common graphic organizer, you can search online for an image of one, save to your device, and use the same steps as above without the hassle of designing your own.  If you have a resource book with graphic organizers, you can take a photo of the desired organizer, upload to your device, and again follow the steps above.

I hope this helps you as much as it helped me!

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Is AR Good 4 Teaching & Learning? Or should we get real?

Augmented Reality is nothing new for youth. It has been a part of student’s social experience in apps like Snapchat and it made a big splash when Pokemon Go made its debut. But when it comes to learning, does it have a place?

While seeing an object, insect, or animal up close in an augmented reality is certainly preferably to reading about it in your science text, is it really the best way to help students learn?

Is learning via AR it better than that?

Well, yeah. Probably. It will engage kids with the wow factor for a bit, but then what?

And what about the source? Who wants us to buy into this? A textbook provider? A publisher? A testing company? A hardware or software provider?

What’s in it for them?

And, what about all the other ways to learn? Is it better than that? Is it cost effective?

AR: The Verdict? It depends.

When compared to textbooks, most would agree that AR improves upon the learning experience. It can also help make a textbook a bit more interactive and give it some life.

But what about other options? A powerful novel? A game? A MagniScope? A PBS documentary? A YouTube expert?

To help think about this, I turned to my friends at Modern Learners for some insights.
When thinking about AR, VR, mixed reality, and etc, Gary Stager, asks, are we “investing in reality first” before we invest in such technologies?

That’s a good question. Especially for kids who live in big cities like where I work. In New York City we have cultural neighbourhoods, experiences, some of the finest museums, zoos, gardens, and experts right in the backyard of our schools. Are we taking students there? Or if we aren’t in such communities, are we using resources like Facebook Live, Periscope, and Skype to connect and interact with real people and places in other parts of the world?

When I served as a library media specialist in an inner city school in Harlem, we had immersive experiences in places like Chinatown, Little Italy, and Spanish Harlem. We visited places like El Museo Del Bario and the Tenement Museum. We had scavenger hunts around the neighbourhoods and the museums were happy to freely open their doors to our inner city youth visiting on weekdays.

Of course there are times when a real experience can not occur in place of a virtual experience. For example, a trip to Mars or the Titanic are out of reach. Engaging in or witnessing a dangerous activity for a newbie such as driving a car, plane, train, are other examples.

But even with such extremes, there may be a movie, field trip, game, or museum experience that might provide a better learning experience.

In his Modern Learners podcast Will Richardson puts it this way. If for some reason we really can’t invest in realities, then yes, these “halfway measures for poor kids” make sense, but only if it really is not possible to bring students more authentic opportunities.

But let’s make sure those real experiences are not available before jumping into augmented ones.

Consider this…

When trying to determine what is best for students, here are some questions you can ask:

  • How would a student use this outside of school?

  • Does it help a young person create agency over learning?

  • Does this have a real-life use?

  • Is this better than…

  • Reading about it?

  • Watching it?

  • Doing it?

When you consider those questions, you will be better positioned to determine and explain if augmented reality should become a reality for the students where you teach.

via Lisa Nielsen: The Innovative Edu… http://ift.tt/2yI8Xax

Supporting Students Efforts in Determining Real from Fake News

Our students use the web every day—shouldn’t we expect them to do better at interpreting what they read there? Perhaps, but not necessarily. Often, stereotypes about kids and technology can get in the way of what’s at stake in today’s complex media landscape. Sure, our students probably joined Snapchat faster than we could say “Face Swap,” but that doesn’t mean they’re any better at interpreting what they see in the news and online.

As teachers, we’ve probably seen students use questionable sources in our classrooms, and a recent study from the Stanford History Education Group confirms that students today are generally pretty bad at evaluating the news and other information they see online. Now more than ever, our students need our help. And a big part of this is learning how to fact-check what they see on the web.

In a lot of ways, the web is a fountain of misinformation. But it also can be our students’ best tool in the fight against falsehood. An important first step is giving students trusted resources they can use to verify or debunk the information they find. Even one fact-checking activity could be an important first step toward empowering students to start seeing the web from a fact-checker’s point of view.

Here’s a list of fact-checking resources you and your students can use in becoming better web detectives.

FactCheck.org

A project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the nonpartisan, nonprofit FactCheck.org says that it “aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” Its entries cover TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. Science teachers take note: The site includes a feature called SciCheck, which focuses on false and misleading scientific claims used for political influence. Beyond individual entries, there also are articles and videos on popular and current topics in the news, among a bevy of other resources.

PolitiFact

From the independent Tampa Bay Times, PolitiFact tracks who’s telling the truth—and who isn’t—in American politics. Updated daily, the site fact-checks statements made by elected officials, candidates, and pundits. Entries are rated on a scale that ranges from “True” to “Pants on Fire” and include links to relevant sources to support each rating. The site’s content is written for adult readers, and students may need teachers’ help with context and direction.

Snopes

The popular online resource Snopes is a one-stop shop to fact-check internet rumors. Entries include everything from so-called urban legends to politics and news stories. Teachers should note that there’s a lot here on a variety of topics—and some material is potentially iffy for younger kids. It’s a great resource for older students—if you can keep them from getting distracted.

OpenSecrets.org

OpenSecrets.org is a nonpartisan organization that tracks the influence of money in U.S. politics. On the site, users can find informative tutorials on topics such as the basics of campaign finance—not to mention regularly updated data reports and analyses on where money has been spent in the American political system. While potentially useful for fact-finding, the site is clearly intended for more advanced adult readers and is best left for older students and sophisticated readers.

Internet Archive Wayback Machine

This one isn’t a site that performs fact-checking. Instead, the Internet Archive Wayback Machine is a tool you can use yourself to fact-check things you find online. Like an internet time machine, the site lets you see how a website looked, and what it said, at different points in the past. Want to see Google’s home page from 1998? Yep, it’s here. Want to see The New York Times’ home page on just about any day since 1996? You can. While they won’t find everything here, there’s still a lot for students to discover. Just beware: The site can be a bit of a rabbit hole—give students some structure before they dive in, because it’s easy to get lost or distracted.

Want to take your students’ knowledge of fact-checking a step further? Engage them in discussions around why these sites and organizations are seen as trusted (and why others might not be trusted as much). Together, look into how each site is funded, who manages it, and how it describes its own fact-checking process.

via Edutopia http://ift.tt/2yiJzak

LEGO® Wall Mania

Makerspaces are becoming more prevalent in our educational settings these days. Kevin Mowat shared with me Diana Rendina‘s current definition of a makerspace:

A makerspace is a place where students can gather to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover using a variety of tools and materials.

A great definition to be sure. The scope of the “place” is the issue for me, as it is for my colleagues as well. Schools shouldn’t just have A makerspace… Schools should BE a makerspace!  It’s more about mindset of the teaching staff!

The reality may be quite different. Schools are creating “places” of smaller scope; more centralized spaces that contain both resources  (consumables & permanent/ loanable items) and personnel that can be “borrowed”  for periods of time. The space itself can also be booked. Teachers and classes are trying out equipment and pedagogies that are more innovative, inquiry-, design-focused and challenged-based as well. This doesn’t mean that a makerspace mindset isn’t in place, just that it may only be present locationally or situationally.

But this makes sense initially. One space centralizes the materials and personnel, lowers the initial outlay of expenditures, decreases the amount of potential reconstruction within the building, lowers the stress of teachers as they learn to approach a new mindset and new tools and so on.

However, it can also “fix” the mindset of the a location-based makerspace into that space in similar fashion to the computer lab. The learning takes place at that location exclusively or primarily.


So what does all this have to do with the topic at hand? How does this connect with mounted, vertical Lego walls? Good questions…

One of the big ticket items that is often requested is a vertical Lego wall. Here are some of the often cited reasons for having such a wall:

  • Lego provides tools that develop lateral thinking in a fun environment
  • It teaches kids to think in three dimensions
  • It improves literacy as kids work with instructions
  • It develops problem-solving, organization, and planning by construction
  • It improves creativity
  • It enhances communication and critical thinking
  • It boosts kids motor development.

There is no dispute with the positive impact that working with Lego can have whether that happens to be on a horizontal or vertical plane. So let’s move forward with that assumption intact.

The issue for me with this item is configuration… Vertical, horizontal or modular. In my mind, it should be an obvious choice, but apparently it’s not. In many cases, I hear about initial requests for vertical, wall-mounted LEGO walls.

As I began looking into what  options there were for these kind of installations, I took a quick trip over to Google to do some searches. I tried “LEGO – makerspace – Pinterest” (not even LEGO WALL mind you) and an amazing number of VERTICALLY oriented wall-mounted LEGO boards were returned in the search.

Google Search Results - LEGO Makerspace Pinterest
Google Search Results – LEGO Makerspace Pinterest

It’s no wonder people want them in their rooms mounted in this fashion. It seems to be the status quo. Might even make sense, at first blush! They take up less space, promote art-like, isometric creations similar to those in the Minecraft environment (a popular creation/game) and still maintain the advantages of LEGO mentioned above. We’ve even modelled this type of installation in our Innovation Office.

But this installation bothers me greatly and for the same reasons that  wall-mounted Smartboards and projectors do (I wrote a post about this months ago). To explain why, I need to go over two concepts:

Let’s go back to the definition for maker spaces kindly provided by Kevin Mowat earlier:

A makerspace is a place where students can gather to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover using a variety of tools and materials.

Simple. Students need the tools & materials to explore and discover concepts at their fingertips wherever that may be.

Let’s further add to that the notion of mobile learning:

Mobile learning  is education via networks (Internet as well) using personal/provided mobile technologies, such as tablets & smartphones to support their learning through mobile apps, social interactions and online educational hubs through which they can leverage information sources. It is flexible, allowing students access to education anywhere, anytime.

Simple as well. Anytime, anywhere learning.

What are the ramification of two such ideas? Mark Osborne discusses multiple ways in which a school’s and classroom’s environment impacts learning (up to 16%, as much impact as many teachers): lighting, sound, workflow, spacing, spaces for focused , collaborative and dynamic learning – all play a factor in the creating a place that “embraces the makespace” mindset. What is required is a flexible learning environment.

When a LEGO wall is mounted or a projector is mounted, that “fixes” that space as either the “LEGO place” or the “front of the room”. That can’t be changed easily.

Fixed spaces are not aligned with the notion of either a makerspace, or a mobile learning environment.


So what to do…

As far as the LEGO Board or WALL is concerned, happily there are many options. I will outline a few here and you can let your mind go with possibilities. But keep this in mind, for any creative, makerspace keep things flexible and modular.

The LEGO Shop sells the LEGO Base Plates in multiple sizes and colours, so once these two decisions have been made you can begin to determine the dimensions of the “wall” that will be created. With nine green, 32cm x 32cm board (10″ x 10″) base plates, a modular 9 piece, almost 3′ x 3′ board space could be created. This could service 9 individuals or 9 pairs of students with using the modular individual base plates or on the combined LEGO wall many students.

LEGO Green Base Plate
LEGO Green Base Plate

Mounting each base plate on it’s own wooden backing keeps the LEGO wall modular. This is important as classrooms are mobile learning environments and this modular configuration allows teachers to group their LEGO tinkering students in flexible groups or individuals depending on needs. It also allows for projects like “whole to part or part to whole art creation”; where each student is given part of a larger image to create/copy, only seeing the whole when all the pieces are combined.

Piece by Piece Art
Piece by Piece Art
Modular LEGO Base Plate Configurations
Modular LEGO Base Plate Configurations

The trick now is how to combine these modules in a secure enough manner that they can be lifted vertically. The image below makes a number of suggestions about how this might be accomplished. The most reliable is creating a box that fits the modular pieces snuggly. Pins could be used to secure the pieces as they are placed into the box. Then this box can be place on an old Smartboard stand or Flip chart stand.

But other ideas abound, as the diagram points  out.

Alternate LEGO "Wall" Configurations
Alternate LEGO “Wall” Configurations

What’s important to remember when considering anything for a mobile learning or makerspace environment is to consider being flexible. Flexible for the students, respectful of the fact that learning happens in unexpected locations and in unexpected ways, and cognizant that fixing things permanently to the walls of a classroom can sometimes “fix” the room in ways that yield unexpected results for the learners that the environments are being created to support.


Just found this article on ScoopIt! this morning. Thought it might provide some other options as well. Keep in mind the notions of mobile learning and flexible spaces though.

Moving Beyond Lego Walls:

Moving Beyond Lego Walls

Are Smartboards Still Smart?

Smartboards Vs iPads
Smartboards VS iPads

I have been having some interesting conversations with distressed schools regarding Smartboards, Epson short-throw projectors – their high costs, the amount of training or lack of training associated with these devices, and whether they still the “smart” way of doing business.

These are loaded questions from the “get-go” because they make a number of assumptions that we in Educational Technology and the Innovation realms have been striving to address for years:

  • The adage “learning first/technology second” shouldn’t be just an adage!!
  • Devices don’t improve educational outcomes as a general rule
  • Best teaching and learning practices DO improve educational outcomes
  • In an age of fiscal responsibility, we need to be sure that the technology we DO purchase addresses the needs of students and fits with what we consider are solid teacher and learning practices.

It concerns me when I hear of expenditures based on grants secured or monies raised with little consultations regarding trends, best practices and the needs of learners in general. And this brings me to the main point of the post… Are Smartboards still smart?

The answer is it depends. It depends on how they are being used. I am going to dust of the the SAMR continuum again to demonstrate how Smartboards or EPSON Interactive short-throws MIGHT (and this is a rather important qualifier) be used effectively. The real issue with these devices, large and small, are that they are essentially single or double touch devices. Now before the masses jump on my back and say there are “multi-touch” devices available, ask yourself how many of these are actually in service in your District? I know in our Division, this number is VERY small – most are single touch, large screen, wall mounted Smartboards! We also have a growing number of wall-mounted short-throw Epson Interactive Dual Touch projectors.

So we have a large expenditure, a great deal of fuss setting up, lots of time creating notebooks for essentially a one-at-a-time student experience, however that happens to be structured. I have seen this occur in a number of ways in descending order of popularity:

  • Large group presentation and lecture; primarily used by teacher
  • Large group centre(s); calendar and day startup routines in primary
  • Digital worksheets or activities
  • Centre work
  • Small group work

Recreated SAMR Model/Continuum
Blended SAMR Model/Continuum (KS)

4 Cs: Above & Beyond
Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking , Creativity

If we recall the SAMR continuum and the 4Cs model briefly from some earlier posts and we apply it to Smartboards and Epson Interactive Projectors we essentially arrive at the same conclusion… The teacher & students have a bit of careful thinking and planning to do BEFORE they embark on deciding how best to use these types of devices. Otherwise there is the real danger of a lot of money having been spent on a very large & glossy projection tool for the teacher to show YouTube videos on.

It is not that these tools cannot be used in a way that is collaborative, or creative, or for communication, or critical thinking or in ways that transform learning. They can!

So why is the default to use the substitution level, focusing on lower level thinking skills, essentially addressing the needs of single students? Ease? Time? Lack of training? I am not really sure. But the issue is that teachers seem to regularly rely on Enhancing experiences with technology with little consideration to student input or outcomes achieved.

Let’s look at how this could be changed. The fact of the matter is that Smartboards and Epson Interactive Projectors are expensive tools that allow for a variety of educational experiences to be provided for learners in a classroom. These devices aren’t being leveraged to their full abilities, and truth be told, there are a number of competing tools that are coming on the market that may in fact soon provide a viable and attractive replacement for these devices supporting learners in ways that were previously unavailable… More on that later in the post.

Here’s one person’s take on how a Smartboard could be taken advantage of more fully:

SAMR & SMARTBOARDS
SAMR & SMARTBOARDS

What’s clear is that Smartboards should be looked at as part of an ongoing learning process rather than as as a digital worksheet to be completed. For example, suggestions such as digital portfolios, or storyboard creation during a video or story writing process, part of a design or brainstorming or webbing process are outlined above. Teachers could use these device in small, needs-based groups as a manipulative for collaborative purposes – a few would work through a series of pointed learning problems. Both of these ideas redefine how a Smartboard could be typically used, and demonstrates a move away from the teacher presentation tool model or the digital worksheet for the whole class model typically selected.

What is also clear is that students will need to be involved in this process. We value Assessment for Learning: releasing responsibility to the learner, activating students as the owners of their own learning, encouraging learners to be instructional learners for each other, clarifying Task, Intent and Criteria and the like… are all part of this picture as well. Involving students in both the learning, collaboration/communication, creation, & critical thinking pieces of the learning supported buy the tools at hand (Smartboard, Notebook, websites etc…) is as important as the decision to change how you go about using the tool in the first place.

Five Critical Elements of Assessment
Five Critical Elements of Assessment

I recently did an inservice where I was helping teacher locate sites that they could use with their EPSON Interactive Projector. Their issue was that the school hadn’t paid the Smart Notebook licence subscription fee to use Smart Notebook with their Epson Projector. Therefore all of the Smart Notebooks they had created could n to be used. They were looking for other options… I created a Symbaloo of possibilities – but a caution here!! A teacher and her students really must plan for how the tool will fit in the outcomes. The learning MUST come first, the tools to support come second.


This brings me to some new thinking. For about the same cost of a mounted projector/smartboard combination or an Epson Interactive Projector one might consider a 40 inch HD TV, Media Streamer & 3–4 iPads minis. What’s the advantage? There are many actually:

  • The TV is almost a big as a small Smartboard and has better resolution
  • TV is very portable and doesn’t require mounting to a wall
  • Cheaper to repair or fix TV
  • 3–4 students can touch the iPads at the same time; double that if you work in collaborative pairs
  • iPads can be repurposed for many other activities
  • iPads can function as portable document cameras/ or simply as cameras/video cameras
  • All material from all iPads can be streamed to the TV at the same time and be recorded

These are only a few of the positive advantages for roughly the same costs. These are things that the Smartboard and Epson cannot do.

For those of you who are really stuck on using an app like Notebook there is Explain Everything Collaborative Whiteboard for iPad It provides real-time collaboration, allowing users to work simultaneously on the same project from multiple devices while using all the design, recording, and export features of the interactive whiteboard. This functionality, of course, comes at a subscription cost, but they seem reasonable.


Let’s wrap this up:

Bart Simpson Leveraging the Power of Smart Boards for no goodBart Simpson Leveraging the Power of Smart Boards for no good

Smartboards and similar devices may not be as smart as they use to be, and there are certainly better options available today, but I don’t think one needs to abandon ship just yet. That said, if you are ready to look at replacing an interactive projector, or a Smartboard it might be a good idea to explore some of the other options that exist and see how they fit into the current workflows, or current practices before making any final decisions.