5/26/2011

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!