Posted on August 31, 2010 by Ollie Dreon
For those of you who have been following the 8 Blog for the last 9 or 10 months, you know the power of this medium. By offering weekly posts connected to teaching and learning with technology, it has been my hope that you’ve been able to learn new ways to incorporate more online collaboration in your classes and to integrate new technologies that promote student reflection and creativity. Despite its meager beginnings, the 8 Blog has been read by over 1500 visitors from at least four different continents. August was the busiest month ever on the 8 Blog with over 300 visitors. Pretty amazing stuff.
I share these statistics not to pat myself on the back or to boast. Instead, I offer these data to demonstrate the reach of the blog format. Blogging is a new medium that gives writers instant access to a world of possible readers. Besides being an international forum for ideas, blogging can also be a tremendous tool for fostering reflection and higher order thinking. Blogging gives writers a voice and offers them a space to work through beliefs, opinions and thoughts. With all of its benefits, blogging has natural connections to our classes and to learning. Could your students be blogging in your class? Absolutely. You could offer weekly blog prompts that have students reflect on the material they learned that week. You could monitor their development throughout a course and see how their opinions and beliefs have changed. I’ve used blogging with several classes and I find I get to know my students better by reading their blog posts. I also get a better idea of the concepts I need to reteach or spend more time addressing instructionally.
If you’re new to blogging, you may be wondering how to get started. While there a variety of different blogging tools out there, Blogger and WordPress are two of the easiest blogging sites to use with a class of students. With both sites, you can add multiple authors and even set the blog so it’s only readable to the students in the class. This helps create a private community where ideas can be shared without worrying about the “world of readers” I mentioned earlier. If you’re using a Ning with your class, there is already a blogging feature within the site that works seamlessly with the rest of the network.
If you need some technical assistance setting things up, be sure to check out these resources.
Blogger Help Youtube Channel
Educause Guide to Blogging
Filed under: Blogging | 1 Comment »
Posted on August 23, 2010 by Ollie Dreon
Sometimes nature has a way of pointing you in the direction you need to go. Take this week’s post. I’ve known about Prezi for a few years but it seems that everywhere I’ve gone recently, somebody has mentioned the site. I figured it was time to feature the site on the 8 Blog.
Prezi is a really unique presentation application that breaks away from stale PowerPoint slides. At its simplest, PowerPoint offers users a rectangular canvas in which to display bulleted lists, graphics and text. Sure, people can add in transitions, animations or sounds, but the end result still looks like a bunch of rectangles that a presenter plods through. Prezi offers something completely different. Instead of rectangles, envision a presentation landscape where a presenter can zoom into and hop from topic to topic like a plane flying from destination to destination on a round the world journey. The most unique part of Prezi is its user interface. Most software uses some type of menu-driven system to allow users to make changes. Prezi uses a series of concentric circles to let you move an object, change its size or rotate it. It takes some getting used to at first but, after a while, seems completely logical and fluid.
Consider using Prezi as an alternate way of giving a lecture. You can also have your students use Prezi to create a presentation to share with classmates. Since Prezi lives online, it can be accessed from any computer with Internet access and can be embedded in loads of other sites. A Prezi presentation can even be downloaded so it can be run in locations without Internet access. Check out this short Prezi I created that briefly explains the history Web 1.0. Need some help getting started? Be sure to check out the following introductory tutorial from the people at Prezi.
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Posted on August 9, 2010 by Ollie Dreon
The world is swimming in data. Census data. Education data. Economic data. It can be difficult to make sense of all those numbers especially when they’re arranged in some gargantuan Excel spreadsheet. Luckily, loads of sites are appearing online to help make all that data a little more digestible. Take SHOWMappingWorlds. Funded by a bunch of international agencies (Amnesty International, UNESCO and Unicef, for example), SHOWMappingWorlds allows users to select different datasets from America, Japan or from the whole globe. Want to see the illiteracy rates for different countries across the globe? Use the drop down menus to select People and the Education subset where you can see the sizes of the countries change size visually to represent the respective illiteracy rates of each country. You can also choose from a multitude of different datasets to show American dropout rates, Iraqi war deaths, unemployment rates or even beer consumption. The great part is all of the maps can be embedded in other locations or downloaded to your local computer. Check out the worldwide illiteracy and American dropout maps I created below.
I think data visualization sites can be really beneficial in our classrooms. If we want our students to be able to make data-driven decisions, we need to help them learn how to access data online, make sense of it and use the data in constructive ways. Sites like SHOWMappingWorlds can help students digest the sea of data that’s out there in a visual way.
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Posted on August 2, 2010 by Ollie Dreon
One of the challenges of teaching online is fostering a sense of classroom community from a distance. In a face-to-face classroom environment, students share the same space and participate in the same conversations at the same time. This synchronous activity can help promote an interconnectedness amongst classmates that can be beneficial in a variety of educational ways (small group projects, class discussions, etc). But how do we incorporate similar activity online? A good bit of online instruction occurs through asynchronous activities. In online classes, students post to discussion boards or write reflections in a blog, but these activities are done individually on each student’s own time. Unless a “live classroom” tool like Wimba or Elluminate is used, students rarely get to interact online the same way that they would in a face-to-face classroom.
But new synchronous options are emerging. Take Synchtube, for example. With Synchtube, an instructor can set up a room where 25 participants can watch videos and chat with one another simultaneously. It’s really easy to set up and can help to foster those real-time discussions and reactions that would occur when a powerful video is watched in a face-to-face class. The challenge is that Synchtube only works with Youtube videos, which can limit your selections. Pulling from YouTube EDU might help you find more educational videos and help you avoid those clones of Charlie Bit My Finger. Be sure to check out the short tutorial on using Synchtube below.
Filed under: video | 2 Comments »