30 August 2012

Social Knowledge, Maps and Power

In a world where young people are connected and interact on social networks, I find it is necessary to  sometimes reflect just how determining these channels of communication have become. Not only discuss these issues with learners, but also call their attention to how social media is changing, and in turn, changing us as online and offline participants  in our social worlds. Where is the knowledge? Where is the power to social knowledge? And how does this affect the individual?

But first, a step back.  

For anyone who has visited this space before, you will have noticed that among the many suggested tools and classroom approaches mentioned, I also have a special focus on digital  identity and maps.

Maps are not territories. They may foster inquiry, spark creativity, however they are not territories. 

On the hand, there is so much that maps can teach us - either creating one's own map (e.g. ZeeMaps
Build A Map, mY Histro) . One can also create timelines to express relevant moments in one's  personal and social history, and here below are some examples:

Some maps call one's social attention to what is happening in a constantly changing world. Views of the World  is a great source for a different kind of map, going beyond mere description of a landmark or place. They often are quite thought provoking and are a rich source for social studies or focusing on social issues with the aid of these expressive maps. 

This blog has also offered many suggestions for games, ranging from language games, general learning games to social awareness games. Today I'd like to highlight 3 more games which may lead to further social awareness and discussions on social ethics. 

Harpooned is a simulator which is freely downloadable for both MAC and Windows.  The participant plays the role of a Japanese scientist who is conducting research on whales in Antarctica - surely a topic which learners should be aware of as so many species are becoming extinct.

Ayiti - The Cost of Life  deals with poverty and how to make ends meet in a challenging and thoughtful simulation for young learners. Poverty, regrettably, is not only found in under-developed countries but all around is, both in urban and rural settings. 

Not meaning to promote any religious preference here, Christian Aid offers a selection of games , from helping in a natural disaster to deciding what is and what is not fair. 

Lastly, 101 Super Sites for Social Studies Teachers, offers as the title suggests, sites which may be used for social studies. Although many of the sites referred to are from the USA,  they may serve as a springboard for class discussions when focusing on social ethics. From there, a class may conduct a search to see what exists in their own country, conduct a mini survey and even develop their own page of what they perceive to be socially relevant in their own environment. From movies to visual boards, there is a wide choice of which tools learners may wish to use to express their findings and opinions.

As with so many other issues, what constitutes ethical behaviour and social ethics may differ from country to country; if on the one hand it is educational that students know about these differences, it is also beneficial for them to reflect on their own society and how social ethics and responsibility affects them. 

Social ethics, social responsibility and social knowledge - these topics are not only for those involved in media but affect everyone. Classrooms are safe places to discuss these topics, raising awareness, giving voice to students, exchanging opinions and views. As for power? Let me share this infographic with you. 

Power To The Online People

How powerful do you feel today?

22 August 2012

Digital Backpacks for Teachers

Most of the time, I include sites here for learners, but today, my mind is on the new academic year and what teachers may find useful and of interest - to both themselves and learners.

Planboard is a free tool to help educators plan and keep their lessons. One feature I like is the ability to keep sticky notes for those good ideas that come at random times. As you can log on anytime, you can immediately take note and then go back to reflect on them. 

Mastery Connect is  geared towards keeping track of assessment and for educators who follow the Common Core, there are also links and suggestions to guide/help teachers.


A couple of sites for videos which are of interest for both teachers and learners include the following:

The Periodic Table of Videos

Teaching Videos  (mostly for K12)

Teaching Photos  (for K12)

The 20 Most Watched TED Talks

SkilledUp is still in beta, but very much worth keeping an eye on. You can begin by browsing for a course/topic you are interested in, or simply type it in the search box.

Busy Teacher is a great place to dip into for ideas, and a recent suggestion was how to use Post-It-Notes as an Ice-breaker. Their posters are also great to share in staff rooms and classrooms. Another option for ice-breakers, is to have students to write their own rule for the classroom and post it up on the wall. Students can either use Wallwisher to do this activity or Post-It-Notes again. If they are working in small groups, why not have students create a Glog to embed in their blogs or classroom blog?

Wallwisher is a tool I regularly use as it is useful for so many different kinds of activities; quieter students love using it as well, as it gives them the opportunity to voice their opinions to the group. 

Digital posters are usually a delight for learners but so is creating their own page, if they are not blogging. Striking.ly gives you the opportunity to easily create a webpage, while Over Blog will appeal to teenagers who are involved in social networks. 

These are some tools which I want to bring in my digital toolkit to classrooms this year. How about you? What tools do you suggest to pack in a digital backpack?

16 August 2012

Fables, Writing and Creativity

Summer still stretches across the skies,  the heat pounding the dry desert sands, while my mind quietly turns to cooler days and busy classrooms. One thing I often debate with myself, is how much one can stray away from a set curriculum and introduce more creative and stimulating activities for learners. Not all curriculum items are necessarily dull and some may even help students. Nevertheless, it is by making a curriculum personal, meaningful to the learner that a curriculum comes alive. 

I cannot help but be constantly amazed by students' imagination and motivation when a task is personalized and appropriate for their context. I don't need to remind them that texting friends is for the break nor that the assignment is for evaluation. Evaluating, commenting and feedback on these types of tasks becomes an urgency, as students are eager to know the results of their efforts.


Because sometimes the nature of the task is so focused on the building of skills (digital literacy in this case) and not just a particular type of writing,  I find that shared feedback from the whole class is also important. After all, they have completed the same assignment and being individuals (whether working on their own or in small groups) will lead to different products. Sometimes students are wary of this approach, but when a teacher calmly explains the why, they settle down and are more comfortable in giving feedback - which is, in fact, a form of evaluation. Evaluation in in this sense also becomes more personalized and tailored to the students. On the other hand, they gradually may perceive evaluation not as a threat, but as a learning experience as well. 

Having fun with Fantastic Fables  is a great site for both teachers and learners. There are 
clear steps guiding the teacher, as well as a chart for guiding  evaluation. Although originally created for young learners, it is an activity which may be suited to foreign language classes or even adapted for slightly older students.

 When it comes to writing, the focus is always on spelling, grammar and mechanics. What if students looked up what kind of writer they were? Tpyealyzer is simple and fun to use - simply paste a blog address in the box, and within seconds you will be told what kind of writer you are! As blogging becomes increasingly a mainstream activity in education, this will always spurn that extra spark of interest among learners who blog. 

Writing is a hazardous and hard process, especially when learning all about writing mechanics, norms and particularly when writing in a foreign language. 750 Words  may be a stimulating exercise for university students who take part in a Writing Centre, for instance. By  writing daily with a challenge and the promise of points,  students can also see how others are achieving their writing goals as well. 

When it comes to writing, I regularly think of publishing next. Zeen is still in beta so if you are interested in having students publish their fables, stories or any kind of writing and creative work, why not sign up for an account?

Digital technology is part of a daily motions and innovations surround us. Stimulating our learners imagination and creativity, seems to me, an integral part of education today. 

How will you be stimulating creativity this coming academic year?

Further suggestion:

1 August 2012

Snap, Crackle, Pop!

During the long summer days, why not take time to explore new sites or take up a new hobby?

SnapPages is a simple way of creating your own page by dragging and dropping. There are different versions, including a free version for you to create your own webpage. 

Kapsul is slightly different, and of special interest to anyone who is involved in art. Collecting, curating and sharing is part of Kapsul's purpose and even if you don't want to begin using Kapsul, it offers a rich array of artistic examples for readers to enjoy. 

Canvas Dropr is an interesting tool to try out as well - a mesh between Google Docs and a cloud, Canvas Dropr allows you to collaborate in realtime, as well as synchronize presentations across platforms. 

CanvasDropr™ Introduction from CanvasDropr on Vimeo.

Because I'm about to begin teaching another online course, pop quizzes are crossing my mind - how to make quizzes more fun, more interesting?

Whether for online courses or F2F courses, Quizdini is a new tool that I will be looking into for the coming academic year. 

We all learn in different ways at different times.

Do you ever take time to find out how your learners prefer learning?

What will you be learning this summer?

What Type of Learner Are You?
Compiled By: OnlineCollege.org