Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Do we need another mind mapping tool?

I have written a post before here about mindmapping tools. There are certainly quite a few out there. I think it really is a matter of preference which tool you use.  I tend to draw mind maps with Popplet as it is easy to use and is great for collaborating.  You can create mind maps on the computer or on your tablet.   I have also made use of iMindMap HD as I like its style and look and the curved lines which can link up a number of ideas in a freeform way that is not always possible on other mind mapping tools.  Here's an example based on some thoughts about digital strategy.
However, recently I came across Cell Storming Free on the iPad which allows you to build on SOLO taxonomy ideas and let your students create mind maps using hexagons which can be moved around and enables students to link up their thoughts and ideas beyond basic levels.  

This example here simply shows how the hexagons can be linked.  It is possible to move hexagons which allows for greater freedom of thought and allows for an ability to think beyond the uni-structural.  The other benefit of Cell Storming surely lies in its flexibility in terms of inputting images, drawings, sound and video.   Within each cell students can create video footage, input sound files or images, web addresses or even draw or label a picture.  It is also possible to embed an image which has been annotated orally and saved to photos/videos.  If you only have one iPad in class (read this post here for more info) then Cell Storming would be an excellent app to let two students use whilst other students use more traditional methods of mind mapping or collating ideas. 
The finished mind map can be saved as an image and shared with the class or can be emailed or saved to iTunes or to dropbox with images, videos and sound files for others to share.  If you are willing to part with a little money then there are even more options but the free version is certainly a good place to start.
What's your favourite mind mapping tool?  Let me know in the comments box below.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A good tech tool

With a little time on my hands I have been investigating some tools that I think have a great part to play in the classroom.  One of these is @EDpuzzle.  Rather like @educanon123 you can take your video from a wide variety of sources (you tube, Khan academy, Vimeo and so on).  I chose one I had made earlier and stored on you tube.

Interestingly, when I made this video using the fabulous @explainevrything I then made a worksheet to go with it.  @EDpuzzle takes away the need for a worksheet.  Your questions can be placed exactly where you want them in the video and there is no limit on the number of questions you can have.  There are two types of questions (true/false or open) and a comments box for some further guidance at opportune moments from the teacher.
Click on the picture to see the video in action.
There is further flexibility in that the video can be cropped to suit your exact needs and you can add voiceover.

Once you have made your video you can then assign it to your class.  As with Edmodo, Nearpod and many others your class simply have to enter the code and access the video.  

Students then listen to the video which stops for each question and does not continue until answers have been submitted.  If you wish you can allow students to skip questions too for completion later on.
Once the work is complete you will have a complete set of data in front of you to assess your students' learning.  The next step in their learning will quickly be evident to you.  Now will it be another video or perhaps they will be ready to make their own video?  Perhaps they can have a go at creating another learning video using @EDpuzzle?  I'll leave that decision with you.  I would be interested to know your thoughts.  Please let me know about this or any other tool you have tried and leave me a message in the comments box below.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Tech Meets AFL - with one iPad

It is well documented how technology can impact positively on Assessment for Learning.  An app or online student response system such as nearpod or socrative will allow teachers to engage students and assess their learning through student response systems. They are excellent for pitching the work at the right level for different learners and indeed for pinpointing exactly where your students are.  They do require a whole class full of smartphone, tablets or similar devices or even just a computer.

In September I am excited to be leading an Inset session on AFL.  I know that there is still plenty of time but given that there are so many strands to think of and ways to approach this subject I need to get ahead and start planning now.  Furthermore, I only want to present a few ideas as I would like to leave room for other colleagues to share the good work they do too.  I hope to bring a bit of technology into play as well as numerous other activities. I think it worth adding at this stage that technology will be restricted to a certain extent as I will only have one iPad.   So, there is plenty for me to think about.  I want my colleagues to leave the session with ideas (mine, or someone else's) that they can put into practice in their classrooms.  

I think I am going to start with an image that will hopefully get the room thinking and contributing without even uttering a word.  I will arm the room with a handful of pens and warn them that no words should be uttered.  I want to demonstrate how this method - the catalyst, the intrigue - will get students focusing on a topic and demonstrating, through written word on the board and through mime, what they already know.
Here's the image I propose using:

There should be plenty to work on there, I am sure you will agree.

Hopefully, that will get the room buzzing - once I allow my colleagues to speak, of course!  So, next on the agenda will be some technology.  Without a class set of tech tools to work with I am slightly restricted. However, there are ways forward.  Decide Now whose praises I have sung before here, would play an excellent role in helping to decide criteria for a piece of work.  As the teacher, I could set the criteria (as in the picture below) and in groups students could discuss whether they felt these were appropriate criteria for the suggested piece of work. Or, perhaps with the one iPad in a group of four I could allow the group to propose suggested criteria and make the wheel for the rest of the class.  With the same tool I could provide with all students a sample piece of work (or a completed piece from the class) and with a spin of the wheel and an area selected all students in their groups could engage in discussion about the error or particular topic highlighted. Those are just a couple of ways forward with Decide Now, but I think there is scope for further use. 

If I wanted to make further use of the iPad I might be inclined to use cloudart.  This simple app is easy to use and students will quickly see what the particular goal is here.

If I project this cloud art image on the screen and use my interactive whiteboard  blackout screen(remember that?), I could slowly pull down the screen and reveal, one by one, the words that make up the success criteria.

Finally, I want to empower my students to be in control of their work and think for themselves. Every year, religiously, our students slot the departmental mark grids into the front of their folders.  A bit like an unwanted gift they look at it once or twice and then do not bother looking again unless they are reminded to. I want to change this process. I might not be able to link this to an app but something tells me that I could somehow link in google forms if I had that flexibility at my disposal.  In the meantime, I am happy to resort to paper.  Very simply the mark grids will contain the usual information about what a piece of work graded at A* means but there will also be some tick lists for students to refer to before submitting their work.  There will be opportunities also for a friend to cast their critical eye over the work too.  Simple, but hopefully effective.

Steps to the topMeCritical Friend
A*I have used lots of link words
I have checked accents
I have checked my verbs
I have used a variety of tenses
I have given opinions and justified them

If I wanted to bring some technology into this element of AFL, I could ask students to read through a few of their friends' work and get them to record on voice record pro (or something similar) a synopsis of one of the pieces of work they have read.  They could provide a list of strengths and weaknesses and some suggestions for improvement for the whole class to listen to.  The rest of the class then decide if it is their work that is being analysed and devote some more time to improving their work before submission.  A good way forward for controlled assessment, I would suggest.

Over the course of a whole term I will encourage my colleagues to put into action any of the ideas that they heard about during our TeachMeet Fest (yes, that is right - our Inset is made by us, for us!).  We will experiment on Tuesdays, tweet about it to share our discoveries, perhaps blog too and I hope we can get a bit of a following of the idea on twitter.  I hope you will join in the fun and follow the tweet stream on #tryoutuesday.

If you have any ideas about this topic I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments box below.

Photo credit: Policy exchange