Fluency, Feedback and a Search for Authenticity with @TouchCastEDU


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Whether it be Peter DeWitt’s work associated with flipping meetings, Brad Gustafson’s #30SecondTake Podcast or Steve Brophy’s Digital Leaders reflections, TouchCast is one of those apps that keeps popping up here and there. An iPad application, it allows you to not only easily record, but through the use of a green screen, add your own settings and backgrounds. In addition to this, it has a great teleprompter which helps alleviate the problem of not quite looking at the camera, as well as helping with pace and fluency.

More recently, Peter DeWitt wrote about the TouchCast Studio in a Box. This includes a green screen, a microphone and a range of clamps and handles. I recently purchased this unsure exactly what I was going to use it for. Ironically, it has become one of the most sort after things at school.

During Term One, my intervention students were given the task of recording an A Current Affair style show. Only working with them once a week using just one iPad, I decided to set up the screen on the whiteboard with an eye on adding some sort of authenticity to their presentations, as well as the opportunity to work on pace and fluency. After typing up the scripts (some used the voice typing function in Google Docs), students recorded their presentations. What was amazing was the amount of students who asked if they could come back during the break to re-record their videos, a by-product of recording.

On the back of this success, I got different groups to record various summaries and reflections using the studio backdrop. Today, one of my students asked if we could set the screen up to record their stories. It was not what I had planned, but I went with it. What was good was that the need to record added a sense of urgency to the lesson. So instead of wasting time chatting, students quickly finished off their stories and lined up to record. What stood out was the amount of respect they had for each other, especially when providing feedback. I am not sure if it is the fact that half of them attest to having their own YouTube channels, but they seem to value the process of recording even if the product does not necessarily get published for a wider audience.

Moving forward, I see so many possibilities for TouchCast. There are various options and functions that I haven’t even touched upon. At the very least, I imagine recording a class of presentations in front of the green screen as they are given, speaking to a document or making a collaborative production combining different parts.

Recently, I stumbled upon Emilie Garwitz share an activity she did with her kindergarten students where the class used the green screen to explore the beach:

Sometimes we are only limited by our own imagination. So what about you? Have you used TouchCast before? What did you use it for? As always, comments welcome.


For a fantastic example of what is possible using TouchCast, I recommend checking out Brad Gustafson’s #30SecondTake Podcast:

Also this series from Steve Brophy:

Steve has also developed his own guide stepping through the process involved in creating your own TV studio.


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Speaking, Listening and Intervention


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

Teaching intervention raises many opportunities that aren’t always as possible in a normal classroom, such as the use of Lego to represent Mathematical concepts (although Mark Anderson provides a solution for this, suggesting that each student gets a small bag). Another opportunity that has arisen has been the use of technology.

From my experience there are a range of reasons why students end up in intervention. For some it is the support, while others it is about confidence and encouragement. However, there is a group who sometimes just don’t necessarily care (see both Tom Barrett and Dave Cormier for discussions on this matter). Although limited as to how much I can modify the tasks at hand, I have instead focused on modifying the product that students produce.

Here then are some examples of the ways I have used technology to improve student outcomes:

Interactive Vocabulary

Vocabulary has been a particular focus this term. At the start of a session on persuasive language, students worked collaboratively to make a word web, where each word had to be connected with another word. This forced students to not just brainstorm words, but look closely at the words that were already there. They ended up with roughly twenty words. I then used an iPad to capture the finished product and added it to Book Creator and gave students the challenge of not only writing definitions for the various words, but recording them as well. Using small whiteboards, students wrote their definitions and before recording did a practice run. Just about every student rewrote their definition after the initial run-through, not because anyone told them that they were wrong, but rather as they read it out loud they found things that they wanted to change. After recording, we were left with an interactive page full of definitions.

Multiple Representations

Students were exploring the representation of fractions and were given the challenge to show a fraction in different ways. They were then required to provide a short explanation of what they created which would be recorded using Adobe Voice. The intent was to support students with the appropriate use of language. This was also a useful activity for identifying various misconceptions in regards to fractions.

A Current Affair

One of my groups was working on recording their own episodes of A Current Affair. Having recently purchased Touchcast’s Studio in a Box, a collection of resources designed to help make any space a studio. I set up the green screen on the board in our classroom and students used the TouchCast app to record the different episodes. To do this they emailed their scripts to me which were then copied into the teleprompter. After some trial runs, students ran through their presentations. What was interesting was that although all were willing to sit in front of the class to present, the addition of video forced many to reconsider how they spoke. This added a level of feedback and self-critique was something that was previously absent from the activity.


It can be so difficult to find experiences which allow students to develop their speaking skills, especiallying in regards to fluency and intonation. Here are a few things that I have found, but what about you? What are some of the things that you have done? As always, comments welcome.


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Going Beyond 1:1 Devices


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

The dream of many when it comes to technology in the classroom is for 1-to-1 devices (actually for some it is 1-to-many). However, for whatever reasons, this is not always the case. (See for example Bill Ferriter’s attempt to raise funds for cheap Chromebooks for his classroom.) Therefore, sometimes we need to be resourceful and think of a different solutions. Here then are some thoughts on different activities that help rethink the use of technology to support learning.

1-1

The ideal situation is having each student with a device. This provides a means for all students to be actively engaged in learning. Here are some suggestions of activities:

  • Making and Creating: There are so many different ways to publish work, whether it be typing up a story, making a slideshow, creating a digital poster, recording an audio or videoing a presentation. Maybe it is using Microsoft Office or Google Apps, what application used depends on what device you are using and what you are trying to achieve.
  • Communicating and Collaborating: One of the greatest benefits of 1:1 situation is the potential to connect and collaborate. This can take many forms, whether it be openly engaging with different ideas and information within various virtual spaces, such as Edmodo, Global2 and Google Classroom, or collaborating via applications such as Answergarden, Google Apps and Piratepad.
  • Sharing and Reflecting: There are many ways to share and reflect. Socrative allows a mixture of predefined quizzes and on-the-fly questioning. Similar to Socrative, Kahoot! provides the means to create game-based quizzies. For a different way of sharing, Verso provides the means to engage in a safe environment anonymously. In regards to surveys and reflections, Google Forms provides for a range of options and a useful summary of responses when finished.  While Padlet provides a simple way to collect and share ideas and information.

Group Work

Not every activity necessarily needs 1:1 devices. There are often benefits to sharing devices, especially when working collaboratively. Whether it be Sigatra Mitra’s 1:4 or Donald Clark’s suggestion of 1:3 or simply 1:2 as the YVeLC pushed. Here are some suggestions:

  • Collaborative Presentation: Although presentations can be done individually, they can also be created with others. For example, students can use Audacity to record and edit a podcast, use Google Apps to work collaboratively, work together to create a blog on a topic or add commentary and feedback to a presentation.
  • Research: Providing groups with a device allows them to find information. Sharing forces students to work together to clearly define what they are actually searching for. This can be useful as each person takes a role, whether it be as leading, questioning, taking notes or searching.
  • Rotations: The BaM Video Delay iOS app allows students to record themselves and then watch back in range of ways. In Physical Education, this can be used to provide students with regular feedback when there are multiple stations running.
  • QR Codes: Using a tablet, QR Codes provide a range of possibilities, whether it be tabloid sports where students watch a short video and then complete the task or a scavenger hunt activity which involves using codes that provide clues to the next code. QR Codes can be a great way of getting students moving around.

1:Class

Whether it be a desktop computer or a solitary iPad, there are many ways that we can use just one device to help drive learning. Some ideas include:

  • Research Computer: So often after students have finished using computers to research they have those odd queries that arise that they just need to look up quickly. One solution is to set up one computer and limit students to a couple of minutes to find their information. To maximise this time, make it an imperative that students have a clear question when coming to the computer, as well as a plan as to how they search for the information.
  • Class Creation: Technology does not have to be (nor should it be) the main focus of a lesson, but can be means of giving voice to it. Even with one iPad in the classroom, apps like Adobe Voice and Book Creator allow you to quickly and easily create whole class presentations. This can be an alternative to having every student stand in front of the class and present, while it also offers the possibility for the user to gain instant feedback and make improvements.
  • Documentation: There are so many ways to use technology to collect documentation. Gary Stager suggests that video and photography offer the easiest means of capturing learning in the classroom. However, there are other useful applications that allow you to build on and organise these, whether it be Seesaw or a class blog. These artefacts provide a way of extending, clarifying and modifying ideas.
  • Measuring the Pulse: Although the easiest way of gaining feedback is in a 1-to-1 environment, there are different things that you can do with an iPad, such as using Plickers, which allows you to easily gauge student feedback by holding up cards, while Post-It Notes and iBrainstorm provide different means to gain information using sticky notes.

In the end, there are so many potentials when it comes to technology, sometimes we just need to think differently. Whether it be a camera, Chromebook, an iPad, a netbook or a desktop computer, each device offers something unique. What needs to be remembered at the end of the day is that first and fore-mostly, no matter what devices you have, it should all start with learning.

So what about you? What are some of the ways you go beyond one to one devices in the classroom in order to create different learning possibilites? As always, comments welcome.


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Using Technology to Document Learning


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

I recently wrote a reflection about different examples of hands on learning that I have been a part of lately. Although there was no question as to whether these different situations involved learning, what seemed missing was a means of effectively elaborating upon the intricacies of the various lessons and activities.

Take the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Program for example. Students engage in a range of activities, including exploring how to care for a garden, developing an awareness of seasons and learning the different skills used when cooking food. This is done while working in groups of six. The usual practise of reflection involves students (not groups) answering a series of set questions each session relating to the focus on the session, either while the food was cooking or as the various materials were being packed up by support staff.Now this was useful to help fill out the time and provide a point of summative assessment, but often meant that the questions used were one-size fits all and did not necessarily capture what may have happened while learning. For example, one week I worked with a group to cook a stir-fry. Each member shared the jobs, taking in turn cutting vegetables or cooking the food. What stood out to me though was how some members took initiative and helped out others. Sharing their prior knowledge and understanding to help other members in the group. Although the questions at the end may have touched on this, it was not necessarily the focus.  One answer to this dilemma is to incorporate more formative assessment through the act of documentation.

One of the key values of Reggio Emilia, documentation involves learners engaging with artefacts relating to their learning. These artefacts can be in any form. Maybe a conversation recorded, a piece of incomplete work or a video capturing learning in action. It can be easy to dismiss the idea of documentation as just a portfolio of work, collected together. The purpose though is not necessarily to summarise products and projects, but rather develop a deeper understanding and provide a narrative. The focus is not to represent a ‘final’ piece of work, but rather a snapshot of learning to focus on. This inquiry may involve questioning what has been done, reflecting on the process and critiquing the product. As Mara Krechevsky, Melissa Rivard, Ben Mardell, Daniel Wilson suggest in Visible Learners,

Documentation supports the social principle of learning by communicating the importance of the experiences captured, the knowledge gained, and those who participated.

An obvious means of supporting this process is through the use of technology.The most common technology used is the digital camera to capture moments. Gary Stager provides an extensive list of possibilities when it comes to photography and documentation. One of the problems though with just using a digital camera is that it is difficult to view the content using the device, meaning that it needs to be uploaded elsewhere.One solution to this dilemma is to use a mobile devices that not only allows you to capture content, but organise it as well. An iPad works really well for this. Beyond the means of capturing learning in a number of ways, it is portable. By allocating an iPad to each group provides a means for different people to capture significant moments as they arise and then use a range applications to organise it. Some options include:

  • Book Creator: A simple application for collecting different artefacts in one place on the go, whether it be images, video or audio. In addition to this, users can add text to provide further context which can be useful when looking back at a later point.
  • Adobe Voice and Slate: Similar to Book Creator, Adobe Voice and Slate allows users to present information in one place. Both have their limitations, but also provide a useful constraint which can help focus the act of documentation. Usually used more reflective, rather than on the go.
  • Google Apps: Whether it be SlidesDocs or Keep, each offer a simple way of capturing content and are available on iOS. They provide the means to share with different members. Google Photos can also be used to simply share videos and images. An alternative to this is Evernote.
  • Seesaw: A cross between a blog and an learning management system, Seesaw provides the means to capture learning in any form. Like spaces such as Edmodo, you can create groups and classes. However, what is different is that even with just one iPad in a classroom you can quickly allocate artefacts to different students. You can also share iBooks created with Book Creator or Adobe Voice videos, as well as continue to develop the conversation further afterwards. An alternative to the various intricacies of Seesaw is having a class blog organised around tags and categories.

So what about instead of students working individually writing their responses they instead got together and considered the various documentation colaboratively? Making their thinking visible. Looking back in order to look forward? As Mara Krechevsky, Melissa Rivard, Ben Mardell and Daniel Wilson assert,

Learners are in groups all the time while they are in school but not all these groups are learning groups. In learning groups, members are engaged in solving problems, creating products, and making meaning; students and adults learn from one another by encountering new perspectives, strategies, and ways of thinking. Members of learning groups also learn with one another by modifying, extending, clarifying, and enriching their own ideas and the ideas of others.

In the end, I don’t think that this is isolated. The same could be said for all of learning. So what about you, how do you celebrate process of learning, whether it be camps, cooking or coding? As always, comments welcome.


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Creating Images for Blogs

One of the strengths of writing on the web is the possibility of presenting ideas and information in different forms. The most common form is visual images. For some this simply means going to Google and copying the first image found. However, these images are often copyrighted or have little connection with the original creator. One solution is to make your own. There are many different websites which make this possible …


recite-bass

Made with Recite This

RECITE This

This site allows you to quickly paste in some text and then choose from twenty different templates, ranging from a mobile phone to a notebook to a framed picture.


Pinstamatic Bass

Made with Pinstamatic

Pinstamatic

Created to support Pinterest, this site allows you to create an image for a range of things, such as a quote, a website or an event.


Quozio Bass

Made with Quozio

Quozio

Like Recite This, Quozio allows you to create quotes from a range of templates depending on the length. You can also get a bookmarklet which allows you to create images from text straight from the web.


Pinword Bass

Made with Pinwords

Pinwords

This site allows you to add your own image or choose from some that are provided, as well as pick from a range of templates in the creation of a visual.


Quote Pixel Bass

QuotePixel

Like many of the others, this site allows you to paste in text to create an image. Where this site differs is the ability to categorise quotes, making them more easily searchable.


Quotes Cover Bass

Made with Quotes Cover

Quotes Cover

This site provides a wider range of options than most based on colour, images and fonts. It also provides several output dimensions, including wallpapers, e-card and social media headers.


Pizap Bass

Made with Pizap

Pizap

Moving away from the quote based applications, this site allows you to create and edit images, adding filters and borders. One of the popular features is the ability to easily make memes, although Meme Generator is just as effective.


 

Pic Monkey Bass

Made with Pic Monkey

Pic Monkey

Similar to Pizap, this site allows you to create and edit images using a range of features, such as effects, textures and overlays. A very stylish application that is easy to use, the only limitation is that some features are premium only.


 

poster_from_postermywall Bass

Made with Poster My Wall

Poster My Wall

Building upon the complexity of Pizap and Pic Monkey, this site allows you to choose from a wide range of templates or simply create from scratch. It offers many variables and allows you to download the finished product for free with a watermark.


 

Drawings Bass

Made with Google Drawings

Google Drawings

This application allows you to create and compile your own images. In addition to matching different fonts, Drawings can be good for incorporating shapes in the development of diagrams.


Paper53 Bass

Made with Paper Fifty Three by Amy Burvall

Paper53

This iPad application allows you to make digital sketches. For more ideas on sketchnoting, see Sylvia Duckworth’s presentation. In addition to the digital, you can just draw something on paper and capture it.


Created with Canva

Created with Canva

Canva

A web application that can be used across platforms, Canva allows you to create a range of images either from scratch, by using predefined templates or remixing someone else’s work. It requires users to create an account which restricts it to 13+. There are also options for purchasing premium content, including templates and images.


Adobe Post

Made with Adobe Post

Adobe Post

In a recent addition to their suite of iOS apps, such as Voice ans Slate, Post allows you to quickly and easily make images. Where it stands out is the ability to adjust content and styles with the wizard tool. Please note, it does add a small hashtag to each make.


Picasa

A downloadable application which allows you to organise and edit your photos. Beyond the usual filters and edits, Picasa allows you create collages for your images.


Something to be mindful of is that although most of the sites and applications do not require logins, they do however keep a copy of your creations. So if you are adding your own backgrounds you need to consider this. While if you are going to use images found online then at least adjust the advanced settings in Google to search up content that has been marked Creative Commons or use sites like Photos For Class to find appropriate content.

So what about you? What images do you add to extend your writing? As always, I would love to know.


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