Technology Reviews

PowToon 4/22/2013

This week our professor, Dr. Dawson, listed several tools and services for us to explore. Although I found many of them intriguing, I decided to test out the animated presentation tool, PowToon. I am in the process of creating multiple videos for my students that are designed to review skills and concepts that will be assessed in the upcoming state testing. I thought that PowToon might offer a refreshing and engaging way to present some of the science concepts. I found navigating the site to be relatively easy and straight forward. Pulling objects into my scene was no problem and neither was typing text. Learning to negotiate the timing of the scene was probably the most difficult part. With a little practice, however, I was working it like a pro.

Another thing I liked about the tool was that it allowed me to upload the video to my YouTube account from the PowToon site. I am trying to have all of my videos housed in one location so that they will be easily accessible to my students. I found this feature to be very convenient, and a trend I am seeing more and more with web-based tools.

One downside that I found was that I could not include voiceovers within the program. I would need to pull the finished product into some other video editing software, record my voiceovers, and then export it as a new video. From an educational standpoint the other apparent downside is time. To create a well thought out, smooth flowing video takes time. These would not be videos a teacher could generate quickly. Making time (perhaps over summer vacation) would probably be the best plan for a teacher wanting to create multiple high quality PowToon videos.

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Second Life 4/14/2013

Exploring Second Life for the first time this week. Here is a picture of my avatar, IronEddie, at the UWF SL Campus:

SL Snapshot_004

I also went to an island and accidentally stepped off the pier only to find an entire set up under water. Pretty cool:

SL Snapshot_003

Prezi 4/8/2013

This week we took a look at the online presentation sofware called Prezi. I have used Prezi to create presentations for the past year or so. Although the program can be a little difficult to get used to, it provides an opportunity to present content to your audience in a new and interesting way that can help maintain engagement. This school year I set up a separate Prezi account so my fifth grade students could have access to the software. I recently had them complete a group project in which each team was given a researchable question about some aspect of microscopes. They were allowed to present their findings in any format they wanted. Several of the groups wanted to use Prezi. I was impressed with how well they did with very little input from me. This program could possibly be used by fourth graders with littel guidance, but younger than that I think it would become problematic.

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Google Docs 3/30/2013

We focused on several technologies this week, one of them being Google Docs. I have been working with Google Docs for a little over a year now, and I have become more dependent on this service as time has progressed. The productivity tools available through this service are not as elaborate as Microsoft’s, but it is the collaborative capabilities of Google Docs that make it so exceptional. The profession of education is not unlike other professions in that there is a great deal of collaboration among colleagues. Whether teachers are sharing lesson plans, co-writing grants, or creating a presentation for a faculty in-service training session, the ease with which collaboration can take place through Google Docs has made it a valuable asset at my school. Google Docs also has many possibilities for students. It could be used as a collaborative tool for presentations that teams put together for a science or history project. The spreadsheet tool could be used to track weather conditions and to share that data with another classroom in a different state or country that in turn includes their weather data on the same spreadsheet.

A concern I would have when asking students to work collaboratively within a Google document would be ensuring they remained on task. Because you can literally watch someone adding content to the document in real-time from your screen, the ability for students to turn it into an instant messaging platform would not elude them. But, as with anything that takes place in a classroom, expectations must be set for student behavior, and teachers must remain diligent in ensuring those expectations are met.

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Micro-Blogging  3/23/2013

This week we have been focusing on micro-blogging. One of the strengths of this communication platform is the ability to post a short, informative statement about something that is happening at that moment. It provides an opportunity for those following the user to get quick snapshots of the person’s thoughts and experiences. As an elementary teacher I see several possibilities with this form of communication.

Our school district is in the process of allowing students to bring their electronic devices to school in order to utilize them as learning tools. My school has had the Wi-Fi network installed and will begin the program next month. One possibility that I read about http://langwitches.org/blog/2010/04/22/tweeting-with-elementary-school-kids/ was to set up a classroom Twitter account and keep the posts private so the conversation would stay between me and my students. I could post math challenges, scientific observations, and reminders about homework or upcoming events. The students could post homework questions, answers to my challenges, observations, etc.

I see the potential for a couple of problems, however. The first is the problem that extends well beyond micro-blogging and that is the issue of equability. While most of my students will have personal devices with Wi-Fi connectivity, there will be some that do not. Every use of the devices I come up with will be a learning opportunity that some of my students will not be able to participate in. While some of this can be taken care of with school owned devices that students can borrow during school hours, some things such as micro-blogging after school would a missed opportunity for them.

I am also concerned about the students utilizing the micro-blogging for purposes other than what I have intended. If the students are able to follow me, they will also be able to follow each other. I will have to make sure that specific guidelines are in place so that my students (and their parents) understand what the specific intent of this communication platform is for.

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Web 2.0     3/17/2013

The products and technologies that have emerged since the advent of what has been called Web 2.0 show a major shift in how companies and individuals are utilizing the Internet. In Tim O’Reilly’s 2005 article, “What is Web 2.0, Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software”, seven differences are discussed that define the Web 2.0 approach on companies. Although all seven of these principles describe business competencies, three of them have had a significant impact on how individuals interact with and create through the Internet. These three are: trusting users as co-developers, harnessing collective intelligence, and software above the level of a single device.

Open source programs are applications that provide the opportunity for user generated content. Through free programs and services such as Wikipedia, Moodle, and FireFox, users have been given the chance to add to, improve, and help sustain the continuation of products and services. What better way to ensure loyalty to a service or product than to let the user become a contributor?

One of the big changes in the Web 2.0 era is the proliferation of web-based software. Individuals no longer have to create artifacts on their personal computers and then transfer those artifacts to the Internet. Now, many of these artifacts can be created and saved in web-based environments that the user can access from any web-enabled device. This “software above the level of a single device” approach has not only increased the easy of use and accessibility, it has also had an impact on the ability for users to collaborate. Services such as wikis, Google Docs, and blogs provide a level of asynchronous collaboration that has not existed before. This collaboration and web-based accessibility has also had a dramatic impact on the “collective intelligence”. With personal experiences, reviews, and consumer ratings easily accessed through the web, consumers no longer have to rely solely on the opinions and advice of experts and advertisements.

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