Saturday, January 31, 2015

Social Interactions With Web 2.0

               In today’s day and age classrooms have access to information from around the world with only a click of a mouse.  However, this information online is not simply for viewing anymore.  In the classroom of today students, and teachers, have the ability to connect and interact with others as never before.  From a Skype call to another classroom to a presentation made through google docs, the ability to quickly and effectively connect with others from around the country or world is now possible.  With this in mind, today I will be reviewing three different websites that do just that.  The three sites will focus on the social interactions possible today, the creative ability and the ability to store and easily access your favorite resources from the web. 

                With the world connected through social media, I feel that exploring the social possibilities of a particular website is the perfect place to start.  I choose to review a website called Remind, which is a free text message service that allows the teacher to text out a message and for anyone subscribed to that class to receive the text.  (As a side not they also have an app that you can download for your smart phone.)  This is an incredibly valuable resource for today’s students, because they might come to school without their backpacks but they always have their phones.  This resource also allows parents to sign up, meaning that if a message was sent out to the class reminding them about a test each parent would also get that message.  Student’s private information is also never accessed as the only information that is provided to the website is their cell phone number.  Throughout the entire process the students, and teachers, personal information is not displayed so students can’t send you annoying texts.  Resources like this truly allow educators to provide every opportunity for their students to succeed by reminding them outside of class to work and study for tests and assignments.  At my school a number of teachers use this service and have found that both parents and students really appreciate the extra reminders and the accountability that it provides.  For any teacher, especially secondary, this website/app is something that you should consider using with your class, as it is free and easy to use with a huge upside to your students and their families.

                As a social studies teacher I am constantly struggling with finding creative ways for my students to present the information that they have learned.   Let’s face it, you can only sit through so many PowerPoint presentations before you, and the class, want to beat your heads in.  To that end, I have found that by having students put information down chronologically in creative ways helps solidify their understanding of the material.  Now creating timelines on word documents is next to impossible and is basically an act of frustration, but today there are great resources online to help with this.  The one that I found is a site called Timetoast.  This online timeline creator is free to use and can easily be embedded in a presentation or a link emailed for an assignment.  The website also offers each person the ability to have their creation be public or restricted to only those with a specific link.  While you do need to register for this site by providing an email address, that is all that is required.   When I asked a fellow teacher about this site, they raved about how it provided students with the flexibility to be as creative as they wanted while still maintaining the educational goals of the assignment.  What this teacher did was have the students create a timeline about an absolute monarch of Europe and then embedded that information onto a wiki site.  The students then visited each other’s sites and quickly could grasp the main points of the monarchs rule by examining the timelines that were created.  To the students it was more entertaining than a presentation and for the teacher it allowed a quick assessment to see if the student truly understood what an absolute monarch was.

                The final site that I choose to review is one that allows any user to quickly and easily assemble all of the websites that you use frequently.  I know that for me, as I go through out my day teaching I have about four or five different websites that I frequent.  Well Symbaloo puts all of your websites on a homepage where they are within one easy click for you to access.  Using a 10X6 grid there is more than enough room to get your favorite sites organized however you like.  All that is required is your email address and then you are up and ready to start organizing your digital world onto one easy to use platform.  While this is a great resource for teachers, this can also be used with students as a great starting off point for research projects.  As the teacher you can create a webmix and then share that with your students.  On this webmix you could have already bookmarked a number of trusted academically relevant sites for the students to use to start their research.  Regardless of the age of your students, that function alone is worth the time and effort of setting up your account with Symbaloo. 

                Hopefully, you will find one of these sites a benefit to you and your students.  If there are any other sites that you use that fit either of these categories let me know by leaving a message at the bottom of this post.

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