Saturday, 9 May 2009
I came across this fascinating presentation about where the online world might evolve while browsing Prezi.com. There are some interesting ideas contained within it, plus the joy of seeing how Prezi's non-linear presentation format makes absorbing information so much more pleasant.
We've been chatting this week at Berkhamsted about how we'd cope with a flu pandemic.
Now, the school's had an emergency plan since Bird Flu threatened to wipe out the known world a few years back. What's changed since then is the wide range of free online learning tools that can be used to keep students and teachers in touch with each other, should schools themselves be physically shut.
Back in February when heavy snow shut us down for a week, we created a Facebook group and sent work out. It might not have been pretty but it did function and kept the information flowing in the right direction.
We do have Moodle as our virtual learning environment and that's what we'll use should Swine Flu necessitate a full closure.
However, there are some interesting free online tools that may be of interest, and certainly are ones that I would look to use as complements.
One problem with a VLE like Moodle is that it's great for offering up asynchronous content, but it's not so good for providing the real-time interaction that makes learning fun and engaging.
Here are two solutions:
- Dim Dim is a great online collaboration tool, that allows a teacher to host a learning session where participants can see/hear each other, make instant text contributions, and use an on-screen whiteboard. Images and documents can be loaded onto the whiteboard and annotated by the teacher and students. Dim Dim also offers instant feedback functionality with thumbs up/down icons. It's a great way to bring real-time interaction to life online. Dim Dim is free for up to 20 participants.
- Cover It Live does something similar but can be embedded into an existing blog, Wiki or website. As a complement to material you may have prepared for students to download and work on, CIL allows you to run live, moderated blogging. Users don't need a password, or an invitation. It allows live and pre-loaded presentation of weblinks, YouTube videos, still images, plus some excellent real-time polling tools, so ideas can be tested and audience feedback shown visually. The end chat can be archived and played back, thus making a reusable resource. This is something I've discovered only recently and intend to trial shortly. It's being used by large media outlets and range of other business companies. It's use in schools seems to be limited, but I found a great presentation about using CIL and similar tools, in what's known as 'back channelling' here. Thanks to Scott H. Snyder for putting it together.
One final tool that I've just come across that looks fantastic is Prezi, a Hungarian presentation tool that takes the idea of sharing multimedia information and turns it on its head. I can't begin to describe how it works, so have a look, have a play, get hooked, get students using it, and change how you think. I intend to do all of the former in the near future. Once you've seen it you'll see what I mean.
One of the issues that interests me is how rapid digital developments might change the way in which we use data and multimedia information in all its forms for educational purposes.
In the broader scheme of things there are fascinating developments taking place in the wider technological community that will, I believe, impact on how we can convey meaning and analysis to our students.
Here's a video example of a Microsoft developmental idea called Sea Dragon (thanks to Michael Rosenblum for mentioning it on his blog):
On a less practical yet interesting note for Media Teachers, here's a fun way to deconstruct YouTube videos into streaming film strips, that change every time a shot change is detected.
Finally, I've written before about Wordle, the free online tool that creates Word Clouds. Now it's possible to extract key words by frequency. I was doing some training with the Religious Studies department at school a couple of weeks back, and my colleagues went crazy for this facility. They realised they could take passages from the Bible, or as one did, Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech, and pull out the most commonly used words. It made for some fascinating results.
As one teacher pointed out, this is a great way for students to see easily, quickly, and visually how words are used to convey meaning, and indeed to see the essence of a text, by taking a reductionist and minimalist approach to it, and using that as a starting point for further discussion.
So, there are changes afoot and there are options available now that educators can use to make information dynamic and appealing to Net natives, as well as providing useful complements to traditional methods for encouraging independent thinking and reflection.