Posts Tagged ‘teaching tools’

5 Ways to Super-Charge Your Teaching with Multimedia
January 5, 2011

We now know that people learn better from words and pictures than from words alone. Yet much of what students interact with in school continues to be mostly text-based. How can a teacher enhance and augment these learning resources most effectively and efficiently, using the rich multimedia now available? There are many ways, but here are 5 ideas you might want to consider:

1. Assess Background Knowledge :
If you are beginning a lesson, you might want to first conduct a K-W-L activity to gauge your learners’ prior knowledge. Do this with a collaborative word processing tool, such as Google Docs. Set up a K-W-L outline, share it with your students, and have them fill out their own information. Or, if you want the information to be anonymous, set up a form in Google Docs, having students submit their information. This will populate a spreadsheet you can quickly review and spot gaps in background knowledge.

2. Set the Stage: To set the stage for learning and to fill in gaps of background knowledge you could jump start your instruction by selecting and presenting various representative multimedia. You can easily search for engaging images, video, interactive activities, animations and documents in the GGfL Library and create a quick and effective presentation. You might want to insert the images/videos on your class website or learning management system, for students to review after a live presentation.

3. Facilitate Student Collaboration/Brainstorming/Analysis: As with most decisions concerning planning for lessons, the learning objectives are one of your first considerations. If you want your students to identify characters in a novel, spot patterns, organize and define concepts, compare ideas, brainstorm, and/or identify relationships, you might want them to contribute to an online concept map, such as

Collaborative tools such as this offer quick and easy ways to get students engaged in a group, encourage conversation, and create relevant, meaningful artefacts. Most importantly, student can create, view, and analyze a visual representation through a collaborative, online medium.

4. Enable Student-Authored Multimedia: Multimedia can provide boundless ways to enhance learning. One of the easiest ways to help your students get started is to have them set up their own blog. It takes just a few minutes and can provide them with an authentic space to write and compile artefacts of learning throughout the year. One of the easiest blogging platforms to start with is Blogger.

How about having your students do a 3 minute response to a picture or video and post that to their blog? Students could create their own multimedia interpretation of a topic, an audio-enhanced presentation, a slide-show using any number of image-sharing tools, or undertake a semester-long project writing a blog from transcripts of letters, primary research, or other information about a person: WWI: Experiences of an English Soldier. (This blog has subsequently been published as a book!)

Students could document and share learning through recording their own videos. Just about any multimedia can easily be embedded on their blog, too. Get a couple of inexpensive video cameras, hand them out, and prepare to be amazed at what your students can create.

5. Engage through Social Interaction/Community:
You can encourage students to participate in active live and back-channel discussions having students view content alone or with a small group, adding a Shoutbox widget to your webpage. Or, have them comment through Twitter, having them use the same hashtags to identify their comments and questions. You can review these comments either as they come in or later, assessing their understanding and the complexity of their questions.

You might also consider setting up a private Facebook group for your class. Facebook provides easy ways to message, share updates, images, and even record directly to the space from your browser.

How about student reviews of movies, books, and other media? This can easily be accomplished through various websites that offer ways to review products and media. One excellent tool, Good Reads, offers a way for students to record the books they want to read, are currently reading, and have read. They can review the books and embed a Good Reads badge on their website, to share their reading experiences with others.

And don’t forget RSS readers, such as Google Reader. These tools can help students research, collect, and more easily analyze resources through viewing content in one space. Spend some time with your students explaining what RSS is, how it can be useful, and how to set up a Google Reader account and subscribe to feeds.

These are just a few of many, many ways you can use multimedia to enhance learning in your classroom.

What are your thoughts and experiences? In what ways are you using multimedia in your classroom? Please post your comments below and thanks for reading.

Learning Machines: Past, Present, and Future
October 13, 2010

Take some time today to view and reflect upon the fascinating evolution of pivotal “learning” devices through an interactive graphical timeline on the New York Times Magazine.

Starting with the horn-book (c. 1650), a wooden paddle inscribed with letters and lessons and ending with today’s iPad, this timeline represents not only the development and progression of tools, but the evolution of teaching and learning.

The behaviorism of B.F. Skinner is vividly demonstrated through his Teaching Machine (c. 1957), a sterile-looking object that packs about the same amount of excitement as a stack of flash cards.

I was surprised to discover that the film-strip projector, a device I fondly remember from my grade school days, was circa 1925. More multimedia arrived by the late 50s with “educational” television (c. 1958), and by the early 1960s there were more than 50 channels that included some sort of “educational” programming across the United States. (The reason I put educational in quotes is that in my opinion, ALL television is educational. But that’s fuel for another post.)


If we look at which machines have lasted and which have gone away, it can help us make predictions about technology and learning in the future. The hand-held calculator advanced to more sophisticated graphing calculators, which are still required in many math classes. However, the graphing and calculating capabilities of computer apps are quickly replacing these devices. The CD-ROM drive (c. 1985), which could store the contents of an entire encyclopedia, including video and audio, has been replaced by online databases accessible by any computer or smartphone. Older televisions in the classroom will be replaced by flat-screen LED panels, connected to the Internet for accessing and interacting with many different types of content.

The interactive whiteboard (c. 1999) is also going to disappear from the classroom as we move to interactive projectors that can project on any surface. Three companies are already selling this type of projector: Epson’s new BrightLink 450Wi, Boxlight (ProjectoWrite2/W), and InFocus. The cost of these projectors is substantially less than the traditional interactive whiteboard, which will allow schools to use their money more effectively.

The iClicker (c. 2005) and other student response systems allowed teachers to poll or quiz students, receiving instant results. However, these devices required students to purchase them, they were costly and required students to remember to bring them to class. These devices are being replaced by what students ALWAYS carry with them–their mobile devices. Many software tools allow mobile smartphones to act as clickers in the classroom. We will definitely see more of this technology being used in ways that can engage students, especially in larger classrooms, for polling and back-channel conversations.

Finally, the computer of course, is here to stay in one form or another. The One Laptop Per Child initiative (c. 2006) highlighted the need for inexpensive, Internet-capable computers for all children. This initiative had some impact, but the development of computers and resulting lower costs make them more and more accessible to the public. The iPad, an apps-based computing platform, has and will continue to make inroads in how we teach and learn with technology. The ability to now download the Kindle Reader to just about any device makes ebooks very accessible and should increase their use. The day when students will no longer lug heavy textbooks around is coming–although it is still not a reality–and the increasing power and portability of smartphones will make accessing information and learning anytime, anyplace a common occurrence.

What’s Missing?

What devices are missing from this timeline? Well, definitely the smartphone. Mobile technologies are still in their infancy, but almost all U.S. students own a cell phone and many of these are smartphones. People need and want instant information to make decisions whenever they want, wherever they are.

I can definitely see mobile devices becoming an accepted and required device for all students, along with a tablet or laptop computer. Instead of teachers saying, “Turn off your cell phones,” upon entering a classroom, they will be saying, “Make sure your cell phones are turned on.”

What devices and technologies do you think will enable innovative and effective teaching and learning, and which ones do you see going the way of the hornbook?

From #BectaX to #ukedchat: Virtual CPD for Teachers
August 19, 2010

Tag cloud for #ukedchat

In March this year, I was lucky enough to be invited to one of the most interesting conferences I’ve ever attended: #BectaX. As its name would suggest, the event was organised by BECTA, a UK government agency that promoted the effective and innovative use of technology throughout learning. This was one of its final acts before being shut down by the new government.

#BectaX brought 150 education professionals, policy formers and digital media experts from the UK to the Wellcome Collection in London to discuss how education might evolve in an increasingly connected world. To widen the conversation, and simultaneously demonstrate quite how connected the world has become, the conference also had a significant presence online. Discussions were filmed and streamed, with pupils from a number of schools linking up to the event via webcam and contributing their own comments both via Twitter and in an afternoon Q&A session.

A screen at the back of the stage displayed the twitterfeed for the event, with a monitor facing the speakers providing them with instant feedback on the session, and giving them a sense of the wider conversations going on around the conference. I’m sure we’ve all heard cautionary tales about the risks involved in making the back-channel public in this way, but on this occasion it most definitely added value to proceedings. The afternoon Q&A session was rapidly appended to the schedule in response to complaints from pupils that their voices weren’t being heard, while at least one presentation was rescued from being an ill-judged product pitch when the speaker realised quite how negative a response he was getting from his audience via the Twitter display.

After a morning of presentations, we returned from lunch to take part in a workshop. Pre-event publicity for #BectaX had raised five key questions to inform our understanding of how education and technology might interact in future. Delegates were divided into fifteen groups of ten and each group was allotted a question to consider. By the end of the session, each had to have produced a poster explaining their ideas, with the others voting on which was the best.

I found myself in a group discussing how technology might be used to create an environment in which teachers were encouraged and rewarded for continuous learning. After considering a number of tempting but implausibly idealistic possibilities, such as giving both teachers and pupils half a day each week to learn about anything that took their fancy, we finally fixed upon two key positives that already existed in the teaching community.

Teachmeets, those informal but organised meetings in which teachers share good practice, particularly with regard to using technology, were the first of our positives. The consensus around them, at least in our group, seemed to be that they were exceptionally useful, but that they’d be far more effective if better attended, since it was often those who would benefit most from ideas and assistance who were notable by their absence.

The other key positive was Twitter, and the way in which it too facilitated the sharing of best practice between teachers, by allowing them to swap ideas and links to useful tools quickly and publicly. Even more than teachmeets, though, Twitter tends to be the preserve of those already at least reasonably comfortable with new technologies.

This led us to probably our most realistic suggestion: that, as part of their teacher training, each newly-qualified teacher should be taught how to use Twitter, and given a list of tweeting teachers they might follow for advice and examples of best practice. New teachers would thus find themselves connected to good practitioners from the very start, while innovative teachers would have the opportunity to circulate their ideas beyond a sometimes small and already well-informed audience, in a kind of virtual teachmeet.

Though the closure of BECTA seems rather to have closed the door on #BectaX and its more ambitious ideas for improving education, this would seem to be one that could still be implemented easily and without much cost. For the moment, any UK teacher interested in learning from best practitioners would be well advised to get on Twitter between 8 and 9 on a Thursday evening, and search for “#ukedchat”.

From its debut in June this year as a more conveniently scheduled UK version of the popular worldwide #edchat discussion, #ukedchat has provided a forum for teachers to discuss subjects that matter to them. Each week, contributors choose a question for debate. Often these address the use of technology within the classroom, such as “How do we make the use of interactive whiteboards TRULY interactive?”, or “How can we use collaboration tools to get kids to learn from and about each other?” Then, over the course of an hour, teachers talk around the question, sharing best practice as they go, in what has been described by one participant as “Formula 1 CPD”. Anyone can contribute, and each week more than 100 teachers and other education professionals do so.

In addition to providing advice and examples of good practice, #ukedchat can also serve as a rapid introduction to some of the most interesting education twitterers around. An hour spent in the company of these practitioners will give the novice a great many ideas as to whom they might follow for regular suggestions and advice.

The wider community that is developing around #ukedchat is also impressive. Each week’s discussions are archived for those who’ve missed the discussion, or want to follow it at their own pace. (And with recent sessions producing more than 700 tweets, this may be an increasingly popular option.) Summaries are also posted on the #ukedchat blog, highlighting the most interesting tweets and links from previous sessions.

All in all, #ukedchat is an invaluable resource for the teacher looking for ways to develop their skills, particularly in the area of new technologies. With the demise of BECTA, and further cuts in education spending announced seemingly weekly, free teacher-led initiatives like this are going to become increasingly important.

Students as Creators of Multimedia Instruction
July 9, 2010

If you were in school during the 1960s, like me, you probably remember the anticipation and excitement when the filmstrip projector was brought out. If you’ve never heard of or seen a filmstrip, there is a picture below. The projector held the filmstrip, which was inserted vertically in front of the projector. Filmstrips usually came with a teacher’s guide along with a 33 RPM record to provide the audio. The person in charge of the filmstrip projector would advance to the next slide when a tone sounded. Even though the content was “educational” and dry, this multimedia device was a welcome diversion from the almost totally text-based classroom environment. Even turning the projector knob was fun. How things have changed.

Filmstrip Projector

Now, we have many more options to include multimedia (both static and dynamic) in our classrooms–to enhance a physics lesson, provide pre-reading strategies for a literature assignment, stimulate a discussion or brainstorming session, serve as a platform for research or debate, and a multitude of other options. As a teacher, you have many more ways to include multimedia, both content that you create and content you can locate online.

Of course, Global Grid for Learning (GGfL) provides an easy way for you to locate, organize, and present content to serve any number of instructional strategies and learning objectives you’ve identified for your students. With over 1 million multimedia resources for teaching, you won’t be running out soon. Whenever you can use resources that meet your needs, it will save you a lot of time. But what about when you cannot locate something or you need more specialized content for your classroom? What are your options?

You could: (1) create the multimedia instruction yourself or (2) have your students create it. For many reasons, it is often desirable to have students create multimedia for various applications, such as instruction, research, interviews, and other creative activities. In this way, you can free up your time to help students with the projects, learn along with them, and create an extensive archive of useful instructional and learning multimedia products. Because students create the instruction, they will have opportunities to learn about the multimedia technologies and about content. You will hear me preach this very often–teachers do not and should not create all of the instructional materials for the classroom. Students should increasingly take on this role and become more active learners.

Students as Creators: Ideas to Get Started

How do you get started? There is no one “right” way, and it really depends upon the students’ skills and the instructional product or material they are creating. You may find you and your students need to learn a technology tool together, such as a video editing program (try Windows Movie Maker or Mac OS X iMovie) or a game creation tool (Flipnote studio for Nintendo DS) before you can create instructional content or a learning artefact. Or you may ask them to create a collaborative slideshow to enhance an instructional unit using Google Docs ( presentation software in groups, which would require little to no pre-instruction.

You might decide to collaborate using a class channel on authorSTREAM (, requiring students to narrate and upload PowerPoint files and comment on other student work. Or students could research YouTube, locating videos that explain and synthesize a concept they are learning and create their own customized annotated playlist along with an introductory video using their computer webcam.

The list of ideas is endless . . . How about students creating cartoons in place of essays, writing their reports or other reviews in this genre? There are many ways they can do this collaboratively, such as Toondoo (, which allows them to create and share their cartoons online. You might want students to explain a concept through a video game, which they can also accomplish online, using a game creator called Sploder (

Students could easily create their own blogs (I like the easy interface of Blogger), upload their videos, and create a video podcast on a semester-long project. Everything involved in this would be free, as blogger hosts videos on Google Video and the blogging platform is also free. Included in this activity would be the necessity to learn about RSS and how to subscribe to feeds, an essential aspect of social media and Web 2.0 tools. Students could share their blogs and create a feed mash-up using tools such as Yahoo! Pipes. And if you don’t know how to do this, then again, learn with your students. Imagine the empowerment and sense of accomplishment that would accompany this work as students explore, create, share, and yes, teach.

So, the next time you think you need to create new multimedia instruction, think again. Research and use the multimedia already created and easily available online. And encourage your students to create rich and engaging instructional content and products. It’s a win-win situation.

Twitter: Quick & Easy Classroom Communication
June 21, 2010

Image via CrunchBase

My summer session started today, with a new class I am teaching with a colleague called “EDTECH 597: Mobile Learning.” This class was designed so students could interact entirely with their Internet-enabled mobile devices, learning about mobile learning. We are using a web-based Moodle course site along with a mobile site using a plugin called MLE Moodle. So far, so good, with our timed tweets being sent out through a service called Twuffer. We created a class Twitter feed, called et597 (short and easy to remember) and required our students follow the account and sign up to receive mobile notifications. We also reminded them to add hashtags to their tweets (#et597) so we could follow those easily, too.

Staying in touch with students, parents, and others through short, quick messages can be a lot easier and more efficient than opening an email program and sifting through messages. As more and more people have access to Internet-enabled mobile devices, we can and should use quick and easy methods to stay in touch, and Twitter provides a great way to do this.

If you’ve never used Twitter before, it might seem a bit overwhelming to learn, but it’s really pretty simple. It’s a social networking and microblogging service (you can post up to 140 characters) that allows you to inform people who follow what you are doing, important updates, or even complain about a product.

All you need is an account (each account requires a different email) and then tell your friends, students, or parents the account name and how to follow you. I now use Twitter for all of my classes, telling my students to follow my class Twitter feed and to enable it on their mobile devices for quick alerts. I also embed a Twitter gadget on my Moodle course site, which provides new information as I post it.

Help in Getting Started
To get started, go to the Twitter home page (, create an account, and then practice, having a friend follow you. Once you see how it works, you might think of using it in your classes, to keep students and parents informed of news and updates, right on their mobile devices. In fact, I’ll even share our Twitter information on how to set up a Twitter account, how to follow one, and how to enable alerts on your mobile device (Google Doc).

And while you’re at it, follow me @boisebarbara ( and tweet me your ideas on how you use Twitter in the classroom. I’d love to hear from you.