Thursday, November 21, 2013

Making Global Connections with Mobile Devices

We know how connecting our students to the world around them is essential to 21st century learning and creating partnerships between student and educators throughout the globe. Taking our students beyond the classroom walls in the quest for knowledge and understanding teaches communication, cooperation and creativity on a global scale. Teachers all over the world are using tools like Skype, Facetime, and Google Hangout to make learning more exciting and memorable. Connecting with another part of the world offers an immediate way to help students discover new cultures, languages and ideas, all without leaving the classroom. Teachers can use these tools to educate students on different cultures, languages and people.

Just last week our 5th grade Hebrew class Skyped with a 5th grade classroom in Nesher, Israel through the Global School Twinning Network. A global collaboration project doesn't just happen overnight. Like any successful project, it requires planning, preparation, connecting and communicating. It had taken several weeks to plan the 30 minute call. All parties involved had to decide on the right date and time that would be best for both schools in the different countries with 8 hour time differences. Then both Hebrew teachers designed lessons which included writing brief introductions about a subset of the students in the other classrooms native language. In addition, each class spent time perfecting a special song about Israel and Chanukah that they would sing to each other. The students planned and planned but hadn’t really connected with what they were going to experience until the conference call happened. You should have seen the faces of all of the students! They felt as if they were in each other’s classrooms. Our students spoke Hebrew, the Israeli students spoke English and the singing was amazing. We culminated with all of us singing the Hatikvah. Priceless. Only after the call did our students realize how exciting their morning was and how it was only possible through technology!! Next time we “meet” we will encourage real-life conversations where our students can practice conversing in Hebrew and help our friends in Israel practice their English skills. Although in this example we did use a classroom desktop and webcam to Skype with the other class, we will consider using an iPad one time to be able to take our Israeli friends on a “tour” of our school campus!!

Global connections can be incredibly easy with the help of mobile devices. Assuming your wireless abilities are up to snuff, you can make impressive connections through video conferencing apps. One advantage to using video conferencing apps on iPads, for example, is that you can take your students out of the class and to another, more relevant area. For example, if you had a gardening program at your school, you could connect with a professional gardener or farmer through the use of the mobile device. Your class can go out to the school garden where the professional could look at your garden and give you tips on how to keep your produce growing well. Another advantage of conferencing on an iPad is that if you are on a field trip with your class you can connect back to your school so they can experience some of what you are experiencing. For example, a couple of weeks ago our school had a contest on which classroom could bring in the most canned food for a local food bank. Class 4A won the contest and their prize (in addition to an ice cream party) was that they got to load up the truck with all of the canned food collected (kids loved it) and then go to the Food Bank to stack the shelves so they can see how their efforts in charity go directly to people in need. In hindsight, it would have been wonderful if 4A Skyped their friends in 4B so they can also see the fruits of their labor!! We will definitely try that next time.

Mobile devices, like iPads and iPhones make it very easy and flexible to connect with the outside world. The apps that are available are mostly free so it’s doable on any budget. You just need to be able to make a connection beforehand and put some thought into it. Programs like the Global School Twinning Network, ePals , iEARN,  Skype in the Classroom, The Global Classroom and the Global Education Conference are great resources for you to start your journey “out of the classroom.”

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ideas for Podcasting in your Classroom

Podcasts have been used in education for years. There are hundreds of educational podcasts available on itunes that can offer a teacher and her students alternative and enlightening ways to learn and tackle most lessons.  People generally produce podcasts to share ideas, presentations, or music. Podcasting is useful for recording a teacher’s lesson or a student conversation. It can be used to create a homework assignment or even be part of a test. Students can produce their own podcasts to interview each other and create their own “radio show”. Schools can also use podcasts to make announcements via their web site.

Creating podcasts in the classroom has many educational benefits, including strengthening skills in research, writing, collaboration and creativity. Many web tools and apps have been popping up everywhere to help teachers and students create their own podcasts very easily.  Here are some examples of easy to use podcasting software:

  • Vocaroo is a extremely easy to use because it does not require any downloads of any kind and can be used in a computer lab. Audio is recorded live on the website and then available to email or embed in a website or blog. This is a great option for a classroom without any podcasting software.
  • SoundCloud integrates a social commenting aspect to podcasting so that “listeners” can make comments for the podcasters. Audio can be recorded on a mobile app but gets displayed on the SoundCloud website to easily share with others.
  • Yodio - With Yodio you can use your cell phone to narrate pictures. Create a card (one picture & one recording) or a tour (many pictures and multiple recordings).
  • Google Voice - Google Voice is free with a google account. Create a unique phone number through google that students can call from a cell phone for added flexibility. Calls placed to a google voice account are stored in an email-like inbox that can then be downloaded as an mp3 file or embedded.

There are so many ways you can engage your students in the classroom by integrating podcasts into your assignments and projects. Recently I coordinated with our 3rd grade General Studies teacher who had introduced her Social Studies unit on US Presidents. She had assigned a different president to each student and a book report project. I wanted to extend the lesson into the computer lab so we decided to create interview podcasts in class. We used SoundCloud because I had access to iPads. The students were paired up and wrote scripts for interviewing each other acting as their assigned President. The main goal of the podcast was to be lively, informative and funny but offering up information about the President and the time in history when they held office. For example, “So Mr. President, you sure have a nice beard!” (Abraham Lincoln) “ Why yes I do, I am the first President to have a beard in office!!!”

The Education Technology Network offers some great examples on how to use podcasts or vodcasts (video podcasts) in your classroom:

Teacher created Podcasts/Vodcasts:
  • Record classroom expectations at the beginning of the year
  • Classroom lectures
  • Supplemental information - information beyond what is covered in the classroom
  • State testing review sessions
  • Record classroom discussions
  • Record a class discussion
Podcasts/Vodcasts created by outside sources:
  • Get information from an expert in a given field
  • Supplemental information
  • iTunes U
Student created Podcasts/Vodcasts:
  • Student projects
  • Student radio style broadcasts
  • Digital storybooks
  • Student created content overviews or reviews
  • Conduct interviews with individuals in the community or school
  • Document a field trip
  • Weekly classroom news broadcast also offers a great resource to get you started called Podcasts: The Nuts and Bolts of Creating Podcasts.

Keep on Podcasting!!!