Many stages of the ILP provide fantastic opportunities for students to really show off some of their strengths while they simultaneously demonstrate their learning. Technology tools can give students options beyond using physical materials in their classrooms. Furthemore, online tools can help students reach authentic audiences beyond the classroom using mediums that best meet that audience’s needs. Technology tools can also be used to creatively share teacher reflections and best practices with colleagues and members of a PLN. The tools that we will highlight here have proven especially helpful as learners begin to contribute to the information on the web.
Perhaps Prezi’s most impressive feature is its ability to manipulate space. Many people equate it to a souped up version of Powerpoint, but that really is limiting the features that Prezi offers. Starting with a single canvas, users can add text, images, sound, and videos of varying sizes and orientations. The challenge is to organize all of those items in some way to demonstrate a topic or an argument; Prezi is an awesome tool for students to demonstrate their thinking as well, showing similar threads between ideas. Users can zoom in on different elements, and pan out to reveal how they all connect within the larger element. While this often requires the presenter to be there in person, it does have a sharing feature that allows a creator to grant an audience permission to the presentation after it is given.
Prezi also has a collaborative option so users can access and edit a presentation at the same time from different locations and assigns each user an image that indicates where in the canvas the user is and what he or she is editing. Sample Prezi
A tool for presenting images, Voicethread offers collaboration and audience participation features that make it a great option for group and individual activities and presentations. Students who are working with visual texts find it particularly useful as it allows them (and their peers) to analyze a text in multiple ways. With every image, participants can leave spoken commentary, record a video of them explaining their thoughts, write analysis, and point to specific elements of the image by drawing right on it.
Voicethread is also a fantastic tool for full classes or inquiry circles to use with a common visual text. In a Freshman Humanities class, students who were studying the Reconstruction Era for social studies and its artistic and literary counterpart, Realism, for English, used Voicethread to analyze elements of a painting as a text.
They synthesized their analysis of the painting with information they gathered from their history textbooks, a video about Reconstruction, and Realistic short stories, sparking discussion about the potential influences of historical events on literature and vice versa.
Video Editing Tools
Our world is increasingly visual; therefore, encouraging students to present their learning as videos is not only an accommodation of learning styles but also a necessity for future success. They can use images, videos, music, voiceovers, and text to analyze their work or create a product for the “So What?” Three of the more common tools are Movie Maker, WeVideo, and iMovie. Movie Maker is free editing software that can be downloaded from Microsoft; it often comes with Windows, so many students may have access to it. Movie Maker also allows students to upload their finished product online. WeVideo has a similar interface and tools, but is web-based through Google, which means it can be connected to Google Drive, Facebook, Instagram, and other applications for access to videos, pictures, and documents. In order to upload a video or share it with others, a small fee is charged, but there are educational accounts that can be created at a discount. Many students in Meg’s HIP class used WeVideo for their end-of-course “So What?” because it allowed them to show images of their learning plan, pictures of the class, and add voiceover explaining what they learned about themselves and inquiry. iMovie is Apple based and many students who are MAC users have access.
Probably the most well-known, most commonly used wiki is Wikipedia. It’s a starting point for many of our students when they don’t know where else to begin with research. With crowd-sourced articles and linked references, it typically provides thorough information about all kinds of topics. Similarly, wikis can be developed by students to share what they have learned with a broad audience.
Wikispaces is a platform that our students have used individually and in groups to create original content and provide references for their topics. One American Literature class created a reference page for their peers in other classes who were learning about different literary eras. See Figure 10.10 for a snapshot of their page about the American Enlightenment. In order to move away from simple reporting, they included sample texts for each period with brief teasers to their content, author bios, and potential text pairings.
Wikispaces page from an American Literature class: http://american-identity.wikispaces.com/
These are just some of the many, many options available, and even considering a single tool, there are likely many, many uses for it, certainly ones we haven’t even considered yet. What are you using and how are you using it?