Thursday, May 31, 2012

Learning in a Digital World

"If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow."
~ John Dewey
There is no denying the impact technology is having on our schools and they way we approach inquiry. Working in a 1:1 laptop environment with my Grade 6 students has made this a mandatory conversation for our school; how are our technology initiatives affecting student learning? And so, I asked my students, how has their access to technology helped them with their own learning. We created a Google Doc to share our ideas and the following article is the result of this collaboration.
We use our computers and access to the Internet to do many different things at school and at home. Technology helps us develop our skills in communication and collaboration; provides information for our investigations and research; has tools that let us show our ideas in creative ways – we use technology every day.

Our Blogs
Our blogs are a great sharing tool for us when we need to show our learning. We regularly use them to share our experiences. Just like the “Bahrain Blogger” shares his experience of being in a civil war, being bloggers lets us show others what life is like at our school. We can upload media files to express our feelings or show our presentations. There are cool widgets that we can insert into pages or posts. We can also learn from each other by giving and receiving feedback on blog posts. I think that the blog is a great way of connecting to other people all over the world.

We also have a class blog that shares information about what we are doing at school. There are reminders on this blog about important events and our parents can visit to see what we are doing. Our teacher also puts links and videos on the blog that are connected to our units of inquiry. We can also download things we need like rubrics, letters and tasks. I can also find the links to other blogs, such as other students, teachers and schools, as well as favourite websites.

Google Docs/ PiratePad
Google Docs is a very helpful tool when you are working in a group. It is an online collaborative site that allows you to work online with other people typing at the same time. I use Google Docs almost every time I am working on a group project. Sometimes, I even use Google Docs when I am working alone so that I can access my project or information from anywhere. In Google Docs you can edit a project when other people are working on it at the same time. You can also make a spreadsheet, a survey, a presentation, a scrapbook and many more other useful items. The chat allows you to communicate with other people, even if you are not in the same place. It also auto saves so when you type it will save for you making sure that no work is lost. You can also access a Doc by a link, and you don’t have to be shared with it to change it. The owner of the document can limit the functions of other people, such as make them view only, or comment only. The owner can also change who the owner is. On a Google Doc, you can change the visibility so that it is public. Then other people can answer any questions you might put on the Doc. Google Docs is useful for collaboration, gathering information, and group work.

PiratePad is similar to Google Docs, but has several other features. On Google Docs, if you are signed into Google, you are stuck with your login name. If you are not signed in, and you have accessed the Doc by a link, then your name is ‘Anonymous User’ and then a number. With PiratePad, you can change your name as much as you want. There is no ‘owner’ on PiratePad, you need a link to view and edit, and you are not allowed to change someone’s status. The only problem with that is that the document is public. Another cool feature of PiratePad is that you can replay the entire development of a document. Everything that is typed, chatted, or changed is recorded and can be viewed like a recording.

Mathletics is an online learning tool that allows students from all over the world to compete against each other on their basic facts such as addition, multiplication, subtraction and division. Besides that, it also provides online lessons and you can work on math problems and tasks that teachers assign to students. I like that we don’t all have to do the same tasks and if we get stuck there are tutorials that we can watch. We use Mathletics to practice and it was fun to take part in the World Math Day challenge.

Khan Academy
Khan Academy is a website where students and teachers can login and either watch the educational videos or practice math skills in the practice section. It is a great online practice tool that can help you understand a math skill. For example if you are stuck on probability, there is a video where it would help you out then you can go to the practice page for that skill. There is even a ‘scratch pad’ so you can use drawing tools to help figure out the answer. Teachers can connect to their students’ accounts to check on their students’ skills and use of time on the website. There are also achievements to boost morale, and skills must be sometimes reviewed. The downside is that unlike Mathletics, coaches cannot assign skills for students to work on, and there is currently only math practice, although there are videos about other things, even science. Students are able to set goals for themselves, track their own progress, ask and answer questions about videos, and finish challenges. The best part about it is, Khan Academy is probably the best free teacher and motivator around!

YouTube / Vimeo
I love using Youtube or Vimeo because it allows you to share your videos and pictures with the whole world for free. You can control who sees your videos, too. Everyone can watch if you publish something and make it public, but you can also have videos that are private or unlisted. If you want to share something with your friends you don’t have to send a big file and they can watch it anywhere there is an Internet connection. I find it really interesting when someone from a far away country comments on my videos and these provide feedback for my Youtube channel. I also make lots of friends on Youtube – we subscribe to each others’ channels and can share our videos. When I have free time on the computer, Youtube is the site I go to most! Personally, I feel that it is a great site no matter if it is for education or for entertainment. I like to surf the web and see if there are any interesting videos to watch, sometimes this is for school to help me understand something, sometimes it might be to find a solution to a problem I am having in a video game and sometimes it’s just for fun. Youtube is basically a online school, but we have to be careful because some tutorials may not be accurate and some videos may not be appropriate, so it’s always good to double check their sources.

One fun way to do a summative assessment or task is to make a movie. Quite often our tasks involve making trailers or interviews and showing them to the class. When we go on fieldtrips we also film and take photos of things around us. Students and teachers can use this educational tool for sharing presentations, books and their learning of something. Using iMovie we can easily piece together movies, adding music, special effects and the photos and films we have taken. The application includes a camera to capture your film, special effects, sound effects and themes, such as newscasts or scrapbooks. iMovie is simple and easy to use and it has great editing tools which helps your video to be more exciting. We use iMovie a lot so we all know how to use it and have fun with it.

Soundcloud is an online audio website, where instead of videos, like Youtube you can put up sounds. Sounds may include original songs, written or composed, they can also be covers of songs that have already been made, they can also be a clip of you playing an instrument, you name it. The presentation of these sounds is really cool because there is a wavelength feature so you can see what is loud, and quiet. The accounts are completely free and come with approximately two hours of audio time. If you upgrade to their paid version, there is an unlimited amount of time. You can comment on a specific section of the song, or just make an overall comment. It helps people to become recognized in the art world. For example, I started an account for fun a month ago, and now there is already over 700 plays of my songs! It is a really good interface because I can get feedback from musicians halfway around the world! Also, similar to Twitter, you can follow people and they can follow you.

Student-led Conference Series
Our class participated in an on-line student led conference series this with schools from Australia and Romania. Using a virtual classroom called Blackboard Collaborate we took turns sharing presentations we had made with each other. Our subject could be about anything we wanted - my presentation was about Minecraft. I think this was an amazing project!

Skype is a free way to video call people around the world and is something that you can use to interact with different schools and communities. It is simple to use so you can easily communicate with others. Skype has a chat function that is student friendly. We have used Skype to chat with other schools across the world, and right now team members for the PYP Exhibition can create Skype conferences to chat with each other after school. There are some drawbacks. Sometimes people say things they wouldn’t say if they were face to face and then cyber-bullying could become a problem. Also, some people stay on Skype too long chatting to friends. You have to be principled and use Skype responsibly.

Global Hello Project
The Global Hello Project is an online website where a variety of schools connect with each other and share what life is like in their school and country. Each school has their own page to add links, videos, and pictures in order for visitors to about each other. Our class is part of the Global Hello Project and added a video to our page.

Twitter is a great place to send out short updates of what is happening for us right now. We can quickly and easily share an update or an event that’s going. Other people can even reply to your tweet or retweet you and share your tweet on their own page. I like using Twitter because it is a great way to connect with other people in your class or even songwriters, director and singers! Twitter enables us to contact people in our exhibition group and even our own families! You can use an @ to talk to someone specific and a # (hash-tag) to tweet about an event. We are currently using twitter for our exhibition as we don’t have a lot of time to write a blog post. A great way we used Twitter was when we wrote what our top 3 choices were for the Exhibition. Then we had a neat little hash-tag called #cdnispypx12 and when we searched on the Twitter page, all the results which had that hash-tag came out.

WallWisher/CorkBoard.Me (online bulletin board)
Online bulletin boards are a very useful tool, when you want to share your ideas or thoughts you can just start writing into it. It is not possible to get confused about who wrote what because each person uses their own sticky and the sticky asks for your name before you write anything. There is an unlimited amount of stickies you can out on the board and you can pile them up if you want to. Since you have your own sticky if someone uses a new line it will not move your words. WallWisher and CorkboardMe can also be used by a large amount of people, once our whole grade used it to write down ideas for a project. While the whole grade was using the corkboard the online bulletins did not lag or have any problems. Unfortunately sometimes the online bulletin board sticky has a word limit and that can be annoying.

Applescript editor is a fun tool that is pre-installed on our computers. From this we can learn to code different types of dialog boxes, and make our computers ‘talk’! Learning how to code is actually a skill that will be useful later on in our lives, which are heavily influenced by technology.

Applescript is easy to learn and it helps you understand how your computer and software that you have works. Once you know how to use it you can use it is easy to make your computer do things by writing applications. We have made different ones including a security application that opens on login to make sure the owner is using the computer, and an application opener, that opens up different applications and asks you what you want to do with them.

Some of us like to use Xcode, which is more advanced than Applescript and lets you design your own apps. With Xcode you can create apps and post them on the app store for anyone to download.

We also go to a website called Code Academy, where we can learn to create Javascript. Applescript is slightly different from Javascript, and the two are not interchangeable. However, both serve basically the same purpose and both are quite fun to experiment with.

NoodleTools is an online website where you can organize a research project. You can cite your sources here and it will create a proper MLA bibliography. You can also add people to your project and work collaboratively, linking to your note cards and a Google Doc. You can share your project with your teachers and they can give you feedback using annotate.

I like using NoodleTools because it is an extremely helpful resource.

~ Collaboratively written by the 6C Cookies.