Posted on January 31, 2011 by Ollie Dreon
I’m always on the lookout for sites that offer streaming videos for free. Last summer, I blogged about seven sites that provide tons of videos that can be incorporated into almost any class, regardless of whether the course is taught online or face-to-face. SnagFilms certainly needs to be added to the list. SnagFilms receives some of its funding from American Express, which allows the site to make deals to offer big budget documentaries on its site for free. Want to show the documentary Prom Night in Mississippi to your students? SnagFilms has it and almost 2000 other high quality documentaries, all available for free. Unlike YouTube which offers millions of videos created by amateurs, SnagFilms is committed to finding the world‘s most compelling documentaries, whether from established heavyweights or first-time filmmakers, and making them available to a wider audience online. Besides allowing you to watch full-length documentary films for free, the site is also a platform that lets you “snag” a film and put it anywhere on the web. By copying the embed code, the films can be “snagged” to play in other locations. Want to show one of the documentaries in Desire2Learn, Blackboard or Moodle? Just copy the code to “snag” it.
SnagFilms also offers a compendium site called SnagLearning which organizes the documentaries by grade level (from kindergarten to college) and by subject area. The site even offers lesson plans and discussion questions for many of the films to help teachers get started. SnagFilms and SnagLearning are tremendous resources that offer educators quality content for free and on-demand. Just like they’ve said goodbye to filmstrips, laser discs and VHS tapes, quality streaming video sites like SnagFilms will have educators saying goodbye to their DVDs and Blu-ray discs.
Filed under: video | 1 Comment »
Posted on January 24, 2011 by Ollie Dreon
Since I teach a good bit online, I find that I’m always creating screencasts of presentations to share with my online students. The process goes something like this: I create a presentation (using PowerPoint or Keynote) and then use a piece of software (called ScreenFlow) to record myself giving the presentation. I then obsessively edit the recording, save it as a movie and then upload it to YouTube. Got all that? It can be kind of complicated but I feel that incorporating my voice is critical to the instructional process online. My students can hear me discuss my thoughts (and tell my corny jokes) and it gives them a sense that they’re interacting with a real educator, rather than just reading words on a screen.
While screencasting can be a little complicated, mybrainshark makes it really simple. After you create your presentation slides, you simply upload them and record what you want to say on each slide. The site can use your built in microphone or you can call into the site using a phone. The site really cannot be easier to use. It walks you through each step of the process and even provides a tutorial to show you how to record your own presentation. Best of all, the basic account is free.
Besides being a great tool for educators to present content to students, mybrainshark creates opportunities for students to make presentations as well. By allowing students to create and share presentations with their online classmates, mybrainshark can foster the development of learning communities, where ideas can be exchanged freely. Mybrainshark can be used with group presentations, with simple digital stories, or even as a means of building more student interaction into the online learning environment. Since the site allows the creations to be embedded in other locations (like Blackboard, Moodle or Desire2Learn), the presentations can serve as an assessment for students as well as a way to build more social learning experiences into an online course. Consider having a discussion board where students respond to a mybrainshark presentation by developing and embedding their own presentation. Since each mybrainshark presentation would contain the creator’s voice, the discussion board would be closer to a real discussion than a string of textual posts.
Filed under: Communication | 4 Comments »
Posted on January 18, 2011 by Ollie Dreon
I’m always on the look out for sites that allow students to be creative and express themselves. Besides fostering higher order thinking skills, sites like xtranormal, Pixton and Animoto can engage students in the learning process. When connected to classroom content, these sites can be powerful forms of assessment. Rather than using another essay exam or a multiple choice test, teachers could have students create scenarios where the content is explained or even debated.
We need to add GoAnimate to the growing list of sites that are creative avenues for students. With GoAnimate, students can develop cartoons or animated films where they can select scenes, dialogue, emotions and even movements. While users have to pay for additional characters, emotions and scenes, the site is mostly free. It’s also really easy to use. With a couple of clicks and a few minutes of work, I was able to create this short video that shamelessly promotes this blog.
GoAnimate would be a great way to have students direct a debate, role play an event or act out a scene from a play. The curricular applications are limitless. To get started, check out this short tutorial.
Update: GoAnimate also has an educational version called GoAnimate4Schools. Not only does the site provide curricular applications, it also allows teachers to register their school to have a private, controlled environment for students to produce and share their animated stories. A basic account (for up to 100 students) is free!
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Posted on January 10, 2011 by Ollie Dreon
For regular readers of this blog, you might have noticed that I’ve written several posts over the last six months that feature sites that allow users to visualize data. One of my goals with this blog is to give educators tools they can use with students to help them create, innovate, critically analyze and think. Our students are being bombarded with baseless slogans, arguments without evidence, and “news” that overflows with opinion. To combat this, educators need to empower students to question the media they encounter and to use data to reach their owns conclusions. We need to provide sites that offer data in digestible means and provide opportunities for them to interact with data and to help them develop an understanding of what the data means. Ultimately, I believe a greater focus on using data educationally with our students will help them become better consumers and better citizens.
FedEx Experience is a comprehensive site that allows users to select different data sets of global statistics. When I first encountered the site, I was a little suspicious. A visualization site managed by an international company? It sounded like an opportunity to misrepresent data for the company’s benefit. But FedEx has done of great job of building transparency into the site to boost user confidence. At the bottom of the site, a user can select Data Sources to see where all the data originates. Amongst other sources, the site pulls statistics from reputable agencies like the World Bank and UNESCO. As different data sets are selected, the countries are re-sized to show how each nation compares statistically. For instance, the map below shows international Facebook use. It is clear that America, with its 125,881,000 users, tops the world.
FedEx Experience is extremely easy to use and presents data on a variety of topics. The site would be a great resource to include in any class where students needed to interact with global statistics and make informed decisions.
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Posted on January 3, 2011 by Ollie Dreon
Do you wonder what is acceptable behavior in China? Is it okay to hold the palm of your hand out towards someone in Greece? Do Italians “knock on wood?” FastenSeatBelts demystifies these international cultural norms in short, easy-to-understand videos. For example, check out this video which explains why one should avoid touching or passing things over someone’s head in Thailand.
The site is the result of an international collaboration between different governmental agencies and a Belgian film company. The site can be searched by continent (Europe or Asia), by country or by different themes (bar culture, gifts, body language, etc). The videos have even been compiled into a free iPhone app called Dos and Don’ts.
Educationally, this site would be a great asset for those people who plan to travel abroad this year. It would also be beneficial for foreign language teachers who want to show cultural practices from other countries. As someone who studies social media, I like the site because it demonstrates the educational value of streaming video and the tremendous power that these sites hold. I also appreciate the project’s stated objective of using innovative communication tools and learning methods to teach through entertainment. It’s definitely a goal that more educators could embrace.
Filed under: video | 1 Comment »