Monday, October 25, 2010

Simple, virtual, booklets for your students to create

Simplebooklets is a great site in which you can create any type of virtual booklet. It's easy to insert text, pictures (maps, graphs,etc), sound, and video. Although the booklets are simple to make, they have a very sophisticated look to them.

Simplebooklets reminds me of Glogster - a virtual poster app, but it's much, well...simpler! Also, it loads and runs much much faster than Glogster.

The booklets are easily embedded into a blog or a wiki, and have the little tab in the upper corners for easy page turning by the users.

For those of you looking for students to make great visual presentations using posters, slideshows, or books, Simplebooklets is an easy way to go. Students will love the ease, and also love how creative they can be!

Take a look at this book I embedded from the Simplebooklets site.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Classroom Camera

Although your classroom may be tech-poor, chances are you can gain access to at least 1 digital camera - even if it is your own - even if it's just a cell phone camera! Although more would make certain things a little easier, one is really all you need to do a lots of great things! There are some activities that can be done as a class and the teacher takes the pictures, and some where you could group the students and then easily stagger their picture taking time. What kinds of great things can you do? The things that make learning more personal, engaging, and visual for your students. So for the purposes of this blog (the need to get tech ideas in a sec), we'll keep our list short.

1. Visualize the spelling/vocabulary list for the week. For elementary students, this can be a fast but fun activity. Put the list of words up and talk about them a little. You can ask the students to show what a word means through some kind of pose, use of props or other creative means. Take a picture! Do that for all of the words on the list. This picture activity not only visually documents the students' interpretation of the words, but the act of "acting out" or visualizing the meaning of the words is an activity that will help the students to better learn the words. You can print out the pictures and post them by the list, or load them into a simple PowerPoint that your run on your overhead projector whenever you do a review of the words. Students can see the pictures and then use their own paper or mini dry erase boards to guess and spell the words. Lots of fun - especially when the students themselves are in the pictures!

2. For older students, split up a word list - and give a pair or threesome of students their word group. Let them take the camera and get a shot of their own interpretation of the words (they will have to discover the definitions on their own). Either print the pictures or project them. Have other students guess what the word is - or have the students who took the picture give clues or describe the meanings. This often becomes a contest about creativity among the students - figuring out the most interesting way to interpret a word visually.

3. Picture scavenger hunts - especially useful when teaching an abstract concept, like "democracy". Students can use the camera to set up a scene that is meant to capture a key concept like equality, majority rule with minority rights, etc. This is a great way to teach students to think metaphorically as well, and modeling for them ways that a simple visual image can convey many ideas without being literal.

4. Story board planning - really fun for group stories! Set up a story board for students to work with (individuals or groups could easily do this). Have students plan their plot, characters, and scenes by using photographs. The story boards can be digital - in Comic Life (installed on all teacher Macs), or even on a simple slide show like PowerPoint, or Google Presentations. The story boards could also just be a large chart of paper - pictures could be printed in black and white and tacked up onto the story board. Students can visualize points of plot, characters, and order. There are also tons of great online digital storytelling tools if you want to go that route, like Storybird, Picture Book Maker, or Kerpoof, just to name a few.

5. Summarizing - learning to summarize the key points of a story or piece of information is an important skill for students. Summarizing using a picture or two can help more visual students hone this skill. After reading a chapter in a book or a section or scene in a story, ask the students to come up with an idea for a scene that would capture the essence of the message.

The great thing about using photos this way in the classroom is that you can have a lot of fun discussions modeling how pictures can tell many stories. Put together a simple PowerPoint for the projector and fill it just with images that you can discuss with the students. Google Images, Flickr, and Picasa are fantastic sources of crowd-sourced pictures that you can easily narrow down by category. Select a set that you think would make for a great discussion (depending on what you are teaching - i.e. summarizing, metaphorical representations) and just drag those photos to your slide show - no need to type any text. Or, you can even snap your own photos of people and places the kids know around town or the school for the same effect. This makes even a modeling lesson engaging and lively!