Join the Conservation Revolution: Go Posterless!

I stumbled upon Glogster EDU last fall and immediately fell in love!  Have you ever assigned a poster project and then immediately regretted it on the due date when all 140 of your students turn in their bulky posters?  I don't know about you, but my desk and classroom space are very limited.  I don't have the space to grade these tree-wasters, much less to store them.  Many of us, as educators, have also experienced the parent cost complaint as well.  I am happy to present the solution!  Glogster EDU is a free online tool that provides a safe learning environment where users can create digital multimedia posters using text, graphics, images, video, sounds, and more.  Check out the video below to see how these students feel about Glogster and its benefits. 

Sounds great doesn't it?  I know there are some of you out there that are still skeptical.  So, let me put some of your fears to rest by sharing with you how easy Glogster is to learn.  I introduced my 6th graders to the glog format by first using it as a presentation tool.  My colleagues and I created a glog to introduce our research unit instead of using a boring PowerPoint and our students loved it!  Click the graphic to experience the full format of a glog. 

As you can see, our "Research Skills" glog incorporated original audio and video clips, links to practice activities and Brain Pop, input from all the teachers on my team, as well as a video clip imported from Discovery Ed's United Streaming site.  Soon after, I assigned my students to make their own glog with a partner that utilized project-based, discovery learning.  They had to choose a non-fiction resource to "figure out" and teach their classmates how to use this resource, what type of information could be found inside, how the information would be organized, etc.  To teach them the skills they would need I shared this wonderful video that covers the basics of Glogster EDU in only 90 seconds with my students.

I spent an additional ten minutes covering some of the finer details and then we began our first project-based learning activity using Glogster EDU and they did amazingly well.  If you are looking for more detailed tutorials there are tons of them available on YouTube.  Check out the student sample below.  It is a sample of what my students were able to create with only a short tutorial while using Glogster for the first time ever.  

As students finished their assigned resource they checked out the other groups' resources to learn those as well making the students both learners and teachers.  Later in the semester, I assigned an independent, at-home project utilizing Glogster called a "Book Hook".  It's basically a revamped book report, but the renewed excitement over making a book report was refreshing for both me as the teacher and the students alike.  Again, after the initial due date, students were assigned to visit their classmates "Book Hook" glogs to look for some books they might also want to read and to leave comments.  Below is a wonderful "Book Hook" a student created that utilized the movie trailer, music that matched the theme, as well as graphics, text, and hyperlinks to additional information.

Sometimes as educators we think the task of teaching our students the technology skills to use a new tool isn't worth the time it will take and I have to admit that there are some tech tools out there that I would tend to share that opinion about.  With looming value-added assessment and countless GLEs to cover we, as educators, have no time to waste in the classroom.  However, Glogster's user-friendly interface is user-friendly and a quick learn even for those tech-illiterate students.  The benefits were well worth the fifteen minutes I invested in teaching this tool.  Once my students learned it, we used it repeatedly throughout the year for various purposes including presenting research, book hooks, digital story-telling, writing portfolios, and skills tutorials.  They even began requesting to use it to complete projects in their other subject areas! 

Beyond the benefit of bragging to be a tree-saving educator. . . The benefits of this free, yes FREE, tool are endless.  As an educator, I cannot sing Glogster EDU's praises enough.  Differentiation is automatically built into every lesson you incorporate this tool into whether you use it as a teacher presentation instrument, avenue of assessment, or in a project-based learning activity because it utilizes verbal, musical, and visual methods of communication.  Glogster EDU is also handy for introducing your students to digital citizenship and social networking because it creates a private online classroom with a group message board as well as private messaging capabilities.  Students can view their classmates' glog posts and read, comment, rate, and share them.  Most of the NETS can be achieved using this tool including creativity, innovation, communication, collaboration, conducting research, information use, and technology use depending on what lesson format you choose to implement it in.  Really Glogster EDU is a wonderful blank canvas for us as educators to paint our own lessons on.  I have seen it used across various content areas and grade levels including use as a scientific inquiry journal, historical figure research presentations, digital portfolios, and more each lending itself to different NETS.

If you want to learn more here is a series of glogs I created for some professional development sessions I led.  I used hyperlinked arrows to create a multi-page glog (hint, hint to those of you wondering how to use this for digital storytelling).
Earlier I mentioned that this is a free tool.  I do not take that fact back.  However, truthfully there is a premium version that you can purchase.  Before explaining the benefits of purchasing the premium version let me state that I have NOT chosen to purchase the premium version.  With education budgets getting tighter this is a time for maximizing efficiency and minimizing costs.  In my opinion, the free version had plenty of benefits that made the premium version unnecessary.  The only glitch is that a free teacher account only comes with 50 student accounts.  I leave it to you to figure out the remedy for that small issue.  That being said, the premium version does come with a few extra bells and whistles such as data and drawing tools as well as better teacher account management.  Admittedly the administrative side of the free version leaves a bit to be desired.  However, these are nominal complaints when compared to the overwhelming benefits as well as the drawbacks of traditional poster projects.  As an added bonus feature Glogster is easy to embed into your blogs and social networks.  So, cheers to going posterless and happy glogging!


Academic Flavored Social Networking. . . Edmodo, It's What's For Class!

With facebook becoming a daily routine for many of us it should no longer be a decision for educators whether or not we will choose to include social networking in our classroom but how.  The statistics are staggering.

The citizens of facebook outnumber the citizens of the U.S.  How can we as educators possibly ignore this tech/social trend?  The answer is we can't.  It is our responsibility as educators to not only include it in our classrooms but also to teach responsible use of it.  However, the safety implications of taking our students out into the World Wide Web and exposing them to such public environments are insurmountable. . . that is, until now.  

Edmodo has arrived on the scene and is a safe social network created solely for educators and students.  If you want to incorporate social networking and important 21st century skills into your classroom then Edmodo is the FREE comprehensive web tool for you!  Post announcements, send out alerts, poll your students, assign tasks, monitor progress, provide feedback, insert blog feeds, communicate with parents, and store and share digital documents all in one convenient place!  It’s even a rich resource for your own professional networking and, yes, there is an app for that!   

The good news is that it is safe and designed specifically for educators.  Edmodo is a social network site but it is also so much more than that.  It is slightly complex and not for the faint of heart when it comes to tech.  Think of the first time you used facebook or twitter.  I imagine your first impression was that it was complex and overwhelming but then, after regular use, it became as necessary and as second nature as the use of your own arm.  Your use of Edmodo will likely be the same.  It's layout resembles facebook which is a sigh of relief for users looking for a friendly interface but, because it is designed for education, there are several differences.

Teachers create a FREE account and create groups for their students to join using a group code.  There does not appear to be a limit to groups or student accounts.  Each member, teacher and student alike, has a personal library from which they can choose to share items with other users.  This opens the door for digital portfolios, digital classroom libraries, bookmarked web resources, and more.
All posts are private unless the moderator of the group chooses to make them public.  There are four post options including notes, alerts, polls, or assignments.  These four post options seem simple but make a variety of uses possible.  For example, the poll post option could be used to hook your students' interest at the beginning of a lesson, as a mid-lesson informal assessment tool, or as a simple interest survey.  A note post might be a discussion starter, simple reminder, or posting of a link, video, or item from the library.  An alert could remind students of a due date, an impending test, or of an excellent resource.  Assignment posts are my personal favorite and are just what you think, assignments.  However, these are not simple notifications of an assignment, but a complete good riddance to paper in the grading process.  You can assign, receive completed assignments, view assignments, grade, provide feedback, and more without handling a single physical piece of paper!  Check out the video below for an overview of Edmodo.


There is also a calendar feature to help organize you and your students.  Your students will foreseeably be joining more than one class on Edmodo so the calendar feature will enable them to see due dates from all their classes on one calendar as well as add their own events.    

For bloggers out there it's good to know that it's relatively simple to subscribe to your blog posts through Edmodo so that your new posts automatically post on your Edmodo feed.  Glogster is also easy to post in Edmodo among a variety of other educator friendly tools.

Beyond the obvious classroom uses, Edmodo is also an excellent source of professional networking and development.  There are a number of professional Edmodo communities teachers can join including ISTE, Discovery Ed, Glogster, as well as content area communities all of which share libraries and ideas.  The variety of communities is growing daily so if they don't have what you are looking for today, check back next week.   

Don't put Edmodo into a box of purely informative use.  Creativity is possible with Edmodo!  For example, in 6th grade ELA we cover mythology.  I decided to help my students to better understand the Greek gods, goddesses, heroes, and mythological creatures we would create a social network called greekbook.  Each student was assigned a different character and had to conduct research and create a facebook profile for that character.  We used a Microsoft Word template to recreate the facebook profile page.  Then we created postings and facebook convos using http://fakeconvos.com/.  Now that I have discovered Edmodo, next year we will definitely use Edmodo instead.  I intend to have them pretend to be their character for a week and require them to post status and respond to others' posts at least once a day.  I created a sample of what it would look like using the fake convos my students created this past school year.  Check greekbook out for inspiration.  Imagine doing the same for historical figures or ordinary citizens during a historical event or scientific discovery.


When You Wish Upon An EdTech Star. . . Disney Delivers Kerpoof!

Kerpoof is Disney's award-winning answer to an edtech teacher's creativity dreams.  Disney is known for its dedication to excellence and Kerpoof is no exception to their quality.  They have provided a FREE private online learning environment with tools such as spell a picture, make a drawing, make a movie, and tell a story!  I give this site an 11 out of 10 for being teacher and student-friendly.  Check out the video below for a preview of the many tools this one site offers.   

Kerpoof does an excellent job of catering to educators by providing teachers with some excellent resources including comprehensive lesson plans and related resources linked to both state GLEs and NETS as well as lesson plans for teaching student how to use the site.  They even include their own tutorial videos for how to make a movie as well as how to make a picture. Disney even lists some basic ideas for using Kerpoof in the classroom across the content areas.  These resources make using Kerpoof a no brainer for educators.

Admittedly Kerpoof is geared towards elementary and middle school, but I feel the movie and story tools could easily interest and challenge high school students as well.  Kerpoof's classroom/student management platform is better than Glogster EDU's free platform and allows teachers an unlimited number of student accounts as well as the ability to organize students into groups/classes.  The newest features include a teacher-controlled chat option, message board, and real-time collaborative drawing.  With built in motivators in the form of koins and a store to spend them in students are not only excited about the tools, but excited to earn new items to work with with every click they make.  At the store they can buy additional characters, scenes, special effects, music, and more. 

I gave my 6th graders and Digital Media Club the opportunity to play with the movie tool to create movie trailers, school club advertisements, or public service announcements and here's what they came up with.  Keep in mind that these students were playing, not being formally assessed.  However, I wanted to share what students could create with Kerpoof with minimal instruction and time.  The first example is an Anti-Bullying Western.  The Western has a full story from beginning to end as well as a theme.  The second example is a Scary Movie Trailer.