Show Me Something I Can Use

Tammy Worcester did an amazing job presenting some really great tools and web based applications. She not only demonstrated how to use the tool but gave plenty of ideas about how students can use it in the classroom. I hope I can demonstrate in writing effectively enough to encourage you to try a couple of these ideas.
Jam Studio is really cool. It’s kind of a music making sandbox that allows the user, even a non-musical one to experiment with the program and create a really cool track – which by the way, can be used as a background track for a PowerPoint presentation, slide show, video, or podcast. Here’s the catch: You can create a track for free and without signing up for an account (in the case of students). In order to “keep” the track, you have to sign up for an account. Unless, you can use this nifty workaround: Record the track you have created in Jam Studio using GarageBand (for Mac) or Audacity. You could even record it using the audio recording feature in PowerPoint.
Vocaroo is a great tool to use as a way to enhance your wiki. Here’s a scenario that I think would be a perfect use for Vocaroo: Say you have a few links on your website or wiki that you want your students to use. You have written directions for your students about what to look for or what you want them to do with a particular activity. If you have students with special needs who may have trouble with written directions, you can record the directions to the assignment and create an embeddable audio player for the students to click on to hear you tell them what to do.
Once the student gets to the site, if the reading level is too complex for them to effectively use the site, the student can copy and past the text into the text box inĀ VozMe. Once the text is pasted into the VozMe application, the user can create a downloadable mp3 that reads the text aloud. The user can download an mp3 to listen from a player like an iPod or from the computer.
Tammy presented lots of other tools at that workshop. I’ll show a few more in the next post.

Did You Know a Mac Could Do That?

Carol Ann McGuire, the ISTE 2008 Teacher of the Year, and working on her current project RockOurWorld. Apple invited her to speak to a group of educators about her work with special needs students, particularly with students with visual disabilities. Among other things, she showed us a few really great video projects that her students have produced using Apple iLife. The videos can be accessed from here: Get a Clue: What We Can Do!

In addition, Carol showed us some features of the Apple that facilitate differentiated instruction. Here’s some tips and tricks that Carol showed us:

  • Using the application Text Edit (small word processing app similar to Windows Word Pad) – check out the Services menu.
  • Paste source text from a website, online book, or other text into a Text Edit document. Under the Text Edit > Services > Speech > Start Speaking Text. Let the computer read the text. Check out this screencast.
  • Take that idea one step further. If your students needs to listen to an article at a later time, create a podcast of a section of a book or an article. Take a look at this article about how it can be done.
  • The Text Edit program can summarize a large source text. After a set of text is pasted, highlight it, and then under the Text Edit > Services > Summarize. You can control how short the summary will be. High light a couple hundred words and the computer will summarize it into a sentence. Pretty amazing! Use this strategy to help students with reading comprehension. Perhaps it may also be a way to analyze their own writing. Use the summarize feature to check the message of an essay. Take a look at this screencast.
  • Both these features also work with Safari. Safari can read the text of a website as well as summarize a section of text.
  • Press and hold Apple+Control+D over any word in the Safari application and up pops a handy dandy Dictionary/Thesaurus.

  • Check out the Zoom in Feature. Under system preferences > Universal Access > turn on Zoom. You can also turn it on automatically by holding down option/command/8. This makes the screen zoomable by holding down option/command/+. This feature is a great way to present content, but for visually impaired students the zoom feature is essential. In addition, students can adjust the display colors and contrast of the screen to make it easier to see. It’s amazing how many of these kind of features are built right into the Mac.

  • There is an amazing capability to give your computer verbal commands. I haven’t figured out how to do it yet, but watch Brandon, one of Carol’s students explain it.

This document will provide more information about meeting the needs of diverse learners. diverse_learners_guide_leopard_version_2

Where to Begin

If I could collaborate with teachers on one new project involving web 2.0 technology, I would like to use VoiceThread. Although I’ve seen plenty of examples, I have not yet tried this tool to create a project. From the looks of it, VoiceThread is a very flexible tool that has a great deal of potential. As I look through the samples, here’s a few ideas I’m thinking about.

  • Scan pictures that they have drawn and tell a story about the image
  • Take pictures with a digital camera of their environment and identify geometric shapes, draw a circle around it and describe which math vocabulary word we see
  • After doing research, use copyright free images and tell the story of a famous person
  • Draw pictures in a sequence and use images to tell a story
  • Use images created in Kidspiration or Inspiration about concept and describe
  • Take pictures of the classroom and record reflections on the year
  • Use an image of a grandparent and tell his or her story
  • Use images from parent’s life and tell stories about experiences from their childhood

The appeal of VoiceThread is that a project would have to involve visual images as well as narration. The narration would require the writing of a script or reading a written report aloud. This would be a perfect cross-curricular project that demonstrate writing, visual literacy, and creativity.

Maybe I’ll get up the nerve to try a project myself!

Technology Driven Differentiated Instruction

I’ve been following Vicki Davis’s blog and projects for quite a while. It was really cool to have her present at the Illinois technology conference. The presentation that I attended was Technology Driven Differentiated Instruction. I’ve done a great deal of research about differentiated instruction. My master’s thesis was a study on effective professional development strategies in order to implement DI into teaching and learning. I’ve read research by Carol Ann Tomlinson, who is the foremost expert on the subject. This workshop presented the content with a new twist. DI is a very complex topic and generally pretty difficult to do well at first. Vicki’s presentation provides some very specific recommendations for the use of web2.0 tools in the classroom and how the process, the product, or the content can be differentiated based on the teaching and learning experience. I need to take a look at her slideshow a few more times to get my head around the information. Pairing the implementation of web2.0 tools with DI is so overwhelming. I think that first teachers have to be comfortable with one concept or the other first before the two are paired. Clearly, Vicki has well developed technology integrated classroom, globally connecting her students using blogs, wikis, podcasting, and other tools. None of the teachers I currently work with are using web2.0 tools.

Here’s the slide show, and my big three.

  • Find a way to use – I saw this site at Beth’s workshop too. It looks like a cool application for interactive white boards
  • Blog regularly – even if I can’t implement any of these “big three” lists, continue to write about what I’ve learned
  • Write a Big Three for the workshops from IL-TCE
  • Organize Intentional R&D – Use this name for the list of stuff I want to look at, learn, implement, inspire other with. This seems like a way to make the time I spend with new ideas and articles much more productive.