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Archive for September, 2010

The one thing I really love about Prezi is how simple the it is go get started. Log in, and start clicking. Prezi has a whole page dedicated to showing users how to produce a great looking presentation. Click here to see the whole page.

Here is a quick video showing the basics of Prezi. The cool thing about this tutorial is that this is all you really need to know to get started.

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I have spent a great deal of time in the last week working with Prezi. I have shown the app to several teachers and had a few classes work with the program. All I can say is that I am more and more impressed the longer I use it.

Though quite simplistic in its design, the tool is deep and with a little imagination, a person has no limit in designing a top notch presentation that will impress most anyone that views “the show.” I say show, because that is really what is created with Prezi.

Over the next few days, I am going to try and compile a list of ideas and examples of what can be done with Prezi, hopefully with some instruction on how to create some of this stuff. If you have some good ideas or examples, please let me know. I would love to see them and post them here.  I would also appreciate any shortcuts or tips that others have found in using Prezi more efficiently.

If you are not familiar with Prezi, click here to get an idea of what it is all about. This slide show has some great examples of what the tool can do.

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Geoff Allemand, author of the Passion Changes Everything blog, pointed me to a TED talk by Chris Anderson called, “How Youtube is driving innovation.” I have been quite interested in using video in the classroom as teaching tool, so I was intersted to see what Anderson had to say.

I was completely blown away. This was one of those times where in a 30 minute period my mind was filled with so many ideas and such a large global concept that I thought my head was going to explode. Anderson basically says that video, in the next few years, will do the same thing for learning as the printing press did 500 years ago. That is a bold statement.

However, the more I think about the whole idea, the more sense it all makes. It is often easier to show than tell, and in some cases, words can only go so far. There is a part of me deep down (the English teacher part) that is feeling all sorts of guilty right now. How dare I think that a face to face interaction could be as effective as the written word!

But it is the truth. It is much easier to show someone how to do something on the computer in person than it is to show them how to do it in an email. Honestly, I have never had much luck showing someone how to do something through email.

The purpose of writing, originally, was not to entertain or make work for students to do in a classroom. Instead, writing was used as a means of communication. Writing was (and still is) the way that a person can communicate an idea to a broader audience. It was the quick way to be in two places or fifty at one time. It still is a valuable tool today. However, video can do easily what writing cannot.

It is the reason that we have schools. People don’t learn from sitting at home with a book. To really learn, we have to be in the presence of the teacher. We need to observe. We need to interact.

Video can work the same way.

Ok, I’m starting to get carried away. Like I said, my mind is getting close to the “exploding” point. Just watch the video and see what you think.

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I recently sat in a meeting where the Colorado Department of Education is rolling out a plan to host podcasts on iTunes U. Since then, I have been thinking about the effects that video can have on the current state of education.

Probably the biggest area where video will be beneficial is in teaching students core content skills. Sure, the students will get their initial lessons from a live teacher. In an ideal world, this is the time where students will ask questions and get a little time to work on problems or skills where the teacher can help if it is needed. In the real world, this is not always the case.

For one, with class size on the rise around the globe, the reality is that a teacher is not going to be able to give every student the one on one interaction that is sometimes needed to learn a concept or skill. There just isn’t time, but with video, students can go back and listen to the lesson over again for clarification and review. And if this still doesn’t work, they can watch it again. In my school district, RTI I(Response To Intervention) is kind of the buzz word for the year, and video is an excellent way of helping these kids catch up.

I can hear the moaning! This looks like it is going to take hours of extra work. Don’t worry. I am not talking about recording every single lesson a teacher gives. To start, teachers should focus on those “core concepts” that a student needs to know to be successful in that particular classroom. Then, when a student is having trouble with those concepts, he or she can refer back to the videos before asking the teacher for clarification.

There is the thought, especially from a person outside of the educational world, that teachers might be trying to get out of work here. That is not the case at all. By using videos as an extra element in the classroom, teachers will just be working smarter.

Video is going to help students learn. Right now, it probably is going to be a little more work on the teacher’s part. There is always that learning curve that comes with new teaching strategies. I think that in this case, the effects will be worth it.

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Last night, I was surfing for a video to show in a presentation. I like the TED talks and went there to see what I could find.  As usual, there were too many good video to watch, but I ran across this talk by Temple Grandin. I remember reading an article a few years ago either about her or by her, but I didn’t really remember much about what she said, other than she was a designer of humane slaughter houses.

After a few minutes of watching her on the stage, I was amazed by her straight forward advice on how we need to change education to help our students. I am not going to say much more about it, other than this lady knows what she is talking about. Take a look:  Click here.

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Yesterday, I broke out the Flip camera and headed back into the science classroom to work with student on capturing micro-organisms in the act of darting across the slide. Boy was it a blast. I am not sure who had more fun, me or the students.

All of the students worked in teams with a microscope to scour their slides for moving creatures. When they found one of the microscopic monsters, they would bring their scope over, and we put it under the camera and hit record.

We had two different outfits running. One was a Flip camera on a tripod. It took several books and some working around, but we finally got it to take a pretty fair picture. The good thing was that there wasn’t any shaking like in my last video.

The other outfit was a webcam mounted on the top of my laptop. This was the only way we could get the camera to move up and down in order to fit nicely to the top of the scope. Actually, it worked quite well, and the images we collected were pretty cool.

Tomorrow, we are going to do some identification. Then we are going to take pictures of some student artwork that depicts the creatures, and throw them all into a video. I can’t wait to see the final product.

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Youtube is a crazy world. There is pretty much everything and anything on its seemingly infinite pages. Mention the use of Youtube to many teachers, and their faces show feelings of fear and dread (though they probably watch it at home). After all, isn’t Youtube a depository for stupid videos.

Yes, I will admit, there is not shortage of stupid people doing stupid things on Youtube. However, lets not overlook it as a major player in the collection of video that may be useful for future generations. I am still trying to wrap my mind around this, but I have been thinking about it all day.

Yesterday, I was walking through a science lab full of microscopes at the gradeschool. The students were studing the microscopic organisms that live in the various bodies of water found in the area. I was doing some Podcast training and had one of the Flip cameras with me. I thought it would be fun to try and capture some of the organisms on video. I was surprised at how good the picture turned out. Granted, I didn’t have a tripod, but I was able to hold still enough to see things moving around. On Tuedsay, I am going to work with some students and set up a tripod to see if we can get some better results.

Ok, there it is. A bunch of microscopic creepy things swimming in water. You are probably now scratching your head thinking, “What does that have to do with scientific discovery? ”

This is my thought. Things change. Organisms, of all kinds, are constantly evolving. Organisms also adapt to their particular environment. That means that something swimming here in our water in Colorado might be slightly different from those (that are supposed to be the same) in Florida. Students have an opportunity to record their observations for the generations of the future to look back on, to study, and to use for comparisons. They are contributing to the real world of science. What they are doing is not just some simple, mundane classroom task. The implications of their work could be huge.

The more I think about this, the more validity I find in teaching our students to post their discoveries and work for others to see. I am sure that when Lewis and Clark traveled across the plains a couple hundred years ago, they didn’t know that their journals would be looked at as a scientific source in the 21st Century.

Ok, that’s enough thought for one post. My mind is racing so fast now, I am not sure exactly what I am thinking. What I do know is that this is big. Our students have the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to science, to social studies, to literature and to any other subject that can be studied.

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