Wednesday, June 20, 2012

10 Ways I Tried To Enhance My Classroom This Year With Tech: #2 Web Potpourri

#2 The Web Tools I Used This Year For The First Time

This post isn't about new web tools, but instead a brief discussion about tools that were new to me this year. Some worked out well, and some need to be rethought.  I'm shoving them all into one post because they probably don't deserve their own post and none of them by themselves were a huge part of my class.
First I'll talk about what kind of worked, and then I'll talk about what kind of didn't.

Apps That Kind Of Worked

1) Online Chart Tool

There are several online chart tools, but my favorite this year was, appropriately, Online Chart Tool. I like it because it's simple, the format looks good even for a lot of data, and there are multiple ways to save the image (jpg, png, pdf, and csv). We construct online graphs for one crucial purpose: To graph our reading each month. At the end of the month, we would take our reading log and transform it into an online line graph.
 We would then upload it onto our E-portfolios. This was a nice visual reflection for both our reading and recording. Because of the visual aspect, it was much easier to set realistic goals for reading for the next month.

I have mixed feelings about this application. It came in 4th this year in the "Best Free Web Tool" category of the EduBlog Awards, so I was interested to try it out. It's a class management system that looks pretty and is very intuitive. But it's kind of messed up. According to the site itself, teachers
"(e)asily award feedback points for behavior in class in real-time, with just one click of your smartphone or laptop. This actually improves behavior." No, it does not.  And the implication of "instant" feedback is that in order to have instant feedback this site needs to be projected in the classroom for everyone to see. That's no good.
So the challenge was to find a use for Class Dojo that doesn't involve classroom management. I wanted something more innocuous for public display, and there are probably of dozens of ways to do that. I used it for our "No Talking" experiment, and in this way it was good. The kids monitored themselves, and were really into it. Next year I'd like to explore other ways to use this that have nothing to do with attitude or behavior.

3) Inanimate Alice
The week before Christmas we finished the reading portion of our economics unit, so I introduced the class to Inanimate Alice. I gave out discussion questions for each of the four chapters that were available and it was an instant success, even for the reluctant readers. 

For the next year I'm exited to expand on this resource and develop more thoughtful and level-appropriate discussion questions.

(After the jump.... Apps that didn't quite work out)

Apps That Kind Of Didn't Work But I Won't Give Up On Yet

I had big plans for Shelfari this year. But there were a couple of things that hindered this. The biggest was that it was tedious to embed the widget on our e-portfolios. Although Shelfari makes this easier for Blogger, it's less straightforward for other hosting platforms. Our Shelfari view splits up nicely the books that we've read, the books that we're reading, and the books that we want to read, but the widget doesn't support this view. Instead we have to choose one of the three. That's frustrating.

Out of all the Word Cloud generators that I've played with, Tagxedo is my favorite. I wanted my class to regularly use word clouds to analyze our writing and see what words we overuse during the editing portion of our workshops. I like all the variety of templates, but it's biggest draw is that it generates jpgs of the world clouds, so it's easy to upload them on the student web pages.

However, it seems to be an unexpected internet hog, especially in Nepal. I was never able to run this application as a whole class. It would always freeze, and we were never able to use it. Nevertheless I love the idea of the tool, and will try it again next year.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...