When Opportunity and Resources Meet = Success Happens

newyear2015Connecting a ‘just right’ opportunity to engage in independent deeper thinking and a resource that allows that to happen is a challenge. When the two meet, it’s almost magical, especially when it can include students who struggle with reading and writing. For these, time is spent mostly on the mechanics of reading/writing, leaving little cognitive energy for deep thinking. While some resources require a strong commitment to mastering the tool (I’m thinking Kurzweil 3000 – still the master of all reading/writing supports – click here for information), others may offer similar experiences with less need for front-end learning.

I wrote about Rewordify before in a previous post so I won’t go into the ‘how to’s here.  Upon first blush, the online site may look rather simple. Dig a little deeper and you will find other layers worth exploring. Its basic premise is that any text can be pasted into the box and it will return a simplified version – very quickly I might add. One of the options deserves highlighting. Retaining the original word within the text, while offering a simpler form provides two things: increase of comprehension and increase of vocabulary. Sitting side by side, relationships between the difficult term and easier one is visually connected. As well, the integrated dictionary allows access to almost all of the words in the selection. And finally, the content can be printed and stored.

rewordify_result

If you have not had a chance to explore this application, you may be surprised at how useful it can be for many students. It is free, though it requires access to the internet. (*Note: You do not need to register to use the site.)

Writing is another challenge that some of our students struggle to get their thoughts down on paper. While I believe that access to computers provides a wider range of choices, there is an application using ipads that offer a basic level of support with regards to word prediction and integrated reading (*this is not speech-to-text).  For those of you already using the computer version (you’ll see this as similar), GoQ Software has developed an ipad version. Named iWordQ Ca (I’ve been waiting for the Canadian spelling and French is included!), the cost of $25 may be worth it. iwordq_writeIt offers a very simple text editor (no images) for writing connected with anticipatory word prediction software. Definitions with examples, pop up with a tap of the finger. You can even add your own words into the lexicon thus including any specialized content vocabulary (think science, social studies). Typed words and sentences can be read back giving you a bit of quality control on the actual writing.   Reading mode gives the writer a chance to do some more proofreading as well as revision.  You might also use it for oral practice by speaking alongside the reading mode, if the end goal is a presentation. (*Note: Speech recognition is only found on the newer ipads. Need wifi access for this app to work.)
For those of you who know me really well, you’re waiting for why I like this app over the many that are out there. That can be seen in the Export feature – multiple ways. Writing is a complex form of communication needing opportunities to engage in a variety of other formats. iWordQ Ca can save files in the app, send to a Dropbox account as well as open in many other apps such as Google Drive! Our Google Apps for Education accounts marry nicely with this process, thus allowing for the inclusion of collaboration and dialogue, images, hyperlinks, charts or slides. Oh, did I forget printing too?

question mark personOur goals drive the use of any application. These apps add to the communication realm. However, I wonder if we should be asking wider questions such as… how will these serve to enhance deeper thinking processes, how will they create independence for the student, how will they bring connectedness and collaboration with classmates, how will they support self regulation?
Hope you get a chance to explore these or cause you to ask more questions. I’d love to hear how you’re using these applications or other apps in your classroom.

App #10 of “10 Apps to Countdown Season”

App #10: Partner a beautiful image that you’ve drawn or photographed with interactivity and you’ve got Thinglink. These rich interactives provide another way to curate and organize information. I’ve written about this before using the SAMR Model as an example (developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D) and also here where I was participating in CLMOOC.

Thinglink offers interaction tools that tag photos or images with a a whole group of content, adding a layering effect. The system is built on the use of tags to add more information like audio, other images, web links, video, text information and anything else you might think you wish. Images can be from multiple sources and even a collage of images built through a program like Picmonkey (see App #8) or Pic Collage (app on ipad).  That leads me to think, why not use this as an infographic to visually showcase statistics. Swap PowerPoint with Thinglink and see where it takes you. Use Thinglink to connect all your flipped videos on your blog.  Or have students explain their science experience  or self assessment through sequenced captions. Teacher-Librarians – have you considered this as a tool to teach research skills or how to vet the mountains of information found?

Simple tips: Sign up for a teacher account. Search inside the site and you’ll find other interactives giving you more ideas.

Hover over the image and click on the icons to see messages for the holiday season.

App #9 of “10 Apps to Countdown Season”

App #9: In our effort to highlight the SAMR Model of integration of technology, we’ve been considering what activities might fit into Redefinition (technology that allows creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable).

app_tellagami

What activities might have significant impact to student outcomes? The “tell your story” concept remains one of the powerful ways we have to teach others, to increase audience, to learn new processes, to share expert knowledge in safe ways (consider also that shy student in your class).

Animations are live and well. While many are found in game environments, why not connect our learning outcomes above to the creation of animations – and no, you won’t spend a ton of time learning software!  Tellagami is an app for ipad or android (love that) and produces animated characters (much like Voki or other avatar programs) that can be saved to the camera library, imported into other apps or uploaded to a blog or other website.
tellagami_screen

Continue reading “App #9 of “10 Apps to Countdown Season””

App #8 of “10 Apps to Countdown Season”

App #8:  Image editors are the tools that help your ordinary images dance off pages. IrfanView is a free program (on your school computers) that does a variety of basics like compression.  I love the “batch conversion” feature when I need a ton of images resized for the web.  (click here for instructions)

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When I need to add pizzazz to my images, I go to PicMonkey. This simple online editor uses a drag-and-drop display that is easy to master.  Every change you make shows immediately.  The site requires no signup and is used successfully with students as early as Kindergarten, not to mention all teachers.  More importantly, you save your images anywhere you wish. Continue reading “App #8 of “10 Apps to Countdown Season””

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App #7 of “10 Apps to Countdown Season”

app_haikudeckApp #7:  How do you present information from research projects?  Usually we default to PowerPoint.  Another option is Haiku Deck for all platforms. I wrote about this app for the iPad before (click here).  The presentation software offers a beautiful, yet simplistic way to to share information.  Each slide offers options for layout, format (bullet points), images (including charts).  While images can be imported from drawings or camera photos, a search of the web will pull up images that are copyright free (licensed under Creative Commons).  [This would be a great time to practice the value of refining search terms.]  And now you’ve struck on the secret of powerful presentations – spectacular focused images that resonate with emotion and bring words to life. It is images that the brain gravitate towards and remembers.

haikudeck_ppt

Other features of Haiku Deck include a Notes section where you can record additional information as a memory jogger for your speech (very handy as this does not show up on the projector screen when you present). Of course we can’t forget the multiple ways that it can be published (on the iPad, synced to the web, as download, email attachment, or opened in another app.  And double yes – it is device agnostic, meaning that the program can be created on any device. As a teacher I won’t need specific programs on my computer to launch the student created decks, just access to the web.

How can you use this in your work or in the classroom?

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