EdTech Tip: Creating a clip of a podcast

April 2016

Using podcasts can be a great way to engage students with new material. Podcasts can be used in a wide range of ways but assuming that you only want to use a few minutes of an episode it is best to clip or trim the section of the podcast that you to efficiently bring it into a teaching sequence. In this video I show you how.

 

What I have learned about: EdTech part III (Screencasting)

Screencasting

Screencasting is a useful and versatile tool for all learners, both teachers and students. Teachers can use it to create task walkthroughs for students like the one I posted here. They can also use it to assess students thinking about concepts and then provide feedback by commenting on the screencast if students share it with them through youtube or some other channel.

Students benefit by creating a visual and auditory performance of a concept (as opposed to a written performance) which they can then critique either on their own when they come to review a topic or study it in more detail. Work can also be saved for future classes to view, critique and improve.

The drawbacks are that it takes a certain level of investment to get comfortable using. I have had students resist doing an activity because they didn’t like the sound of their own voice understandably. This means that gentle encouragement and coaching can draw out the process. In addition students need to be shown how to to this, what software to use and what websites to visit on top of the content that you are trying to help them engage with ultimately.

On this page I introduce readers to an online sketchpad that when combined with screencasting as shown on this page provides an excellent tool for student performances that get away from the pen and pencil and engage other senses in the learning process.

In the performances below, my grade 11 HL Biology students were asked to use sketchpad to describe the process of DNA replication while recording a screencast. I think that the results speak for themselves, and I think any teacher will see the benefit of having students submit work in this format:

Example No 1

Example No 2:

Example No 3:

What I learned about: EdTech part II (Mobile Tech)

Mobile Tech

Mobiles in the classroom? This can be a testy one and probably not appropriate for all classrooms. I currently work in a Bring Your Own Device School or BYOD campus, where students are allowed to bring any smartphone or tablet to class with them, although in Grade 9 upwards (Year 10 UK style) we insist on a laptop.

BYOD campuses bring their own challenges for the learning community but they certainly can bring benefits to classrooms, so long as the focus remains on the learning and not on the “ooohhh” factor of playing with new toys. The SAMR model (below) is a great starting point for launching your thinking about how to use EdTech in the classroom, although to reach the higher levels of the model does require a significant of investment of time for the teacher to be proficient enough with the technology to design appropriate learning engagements. Schools that aim to get in involved with tech in the classroom should pay head to this training need for teachers.

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As a science teacher some of the areas that I have experimented with in using Mobile tech is to ask students to create “how to videos”. Mostly these would be created on iPhones or iPads using iMovie but there are other devices and software available. For example, carrying out foodtests and learning about the diagnostic tests for starch and simple sugars etc is a normal part of a middle school science program. The learning here underpins learning of deeper concepts further up the school, for example using colourimetery to test for the concentration of sugars. In a traditional classroom, science teachers would teach the theory before a class would carry out the tests in a practical lab to get experience of actually carrying out the tests. By adding in the task of making a “how to video” students would be asked to carry out the task as usual but to use their phones to record the tests and at the end put together a short video that demonstrates each of the tests in action. What I like about this is that it causes students to reinforce the learning by applying the theory in a new context; not only in the practical but in the further explanation of the method via the video. Students are effectively being asked to visually write a method, which they can share with friends, or save for revision time. When these videos are uploaded to Youtube it becomes very easy as a teacher to assess and provide feedback on the learning via the comments section.

I include some videos of this below that show the student work. The results do vary.

Mobiles can also be used for higher order learning and not simply the description of methodology but also the explanation of concepts. I have only tried this once with a grade 11 (Year 12 or L6th).

In these tasks students were asked to demonstrate their understanding of a concept by creating a short video about it. Students record a sequence of steps using molymods or playdoh to illustrate an idea. Their lecture is therefore recorded and their thinking is made audible and visible. Peers and teachers are able to review this thinking to give feedback to the student. Tasks can be individual or in small groups, as were done in the creation of this video explaining hydrolysis and condensation reactions.

The task can be scaled up into whole groups as in this explanation of transcription by my current grade 11 HL students. Here I asked students to study the material prior to class. When they came to class I asked each of them to write a model answer to a question about transcription. I then snowballed the students into a group who were now asked to write a script for an animation of transcription. Finally the students were asked to animate their script using play-doh and to record this with one of the students phone. The result can be viewed here:

One of the things that I like about this approach is that it is multi-sensory. Students are not confined to simply writing and reading, activity that is divorced from relying on all our senses to learn. Students can craft a model with their hands, while using their voices and sense of hearing to articulate their thinking and critique the work of each other.

This type of activity can be taken even further and can across classrooms. It can ultimately provided students with their own revision tool, if the explanation is correct or it can be used for further rounds of critique until it is perfected. Students in the same class or in future classes can critique the work to spot and correct any mistakes in the explanation, all the while students are getting familiar with and practice at using the scientific terminology.

 

 

 

 

What I learned about: EdTech part I (Social Media)

Introduction

I left school in 2001. At the time my school had a computer suite and I believe that as a student I had an email address but I never used it. I got into email in a big way on my year out as my only means of communicating with family and friends while overseas, although I suppose I could have started a blog then. When I started university in 2003 we students were regularly advised to check our emails daily and this and DUO (Durham University Online) became two major technologies used in the delivery of the courses I studied.

I rejoined school as a teacher in 2008 and between then and now one of my internal fascinations and dialogues has been concerned with the sheer change and opportunity that technology has afforded schools; initially I was struck by the difference wrought by Skype and social media, between what I experienced at the very end of my schooling and what secondary students in a boarding school in 2008 were experiencing. Since then I have listened, intently, to the debate that has raged about teachers, schools and students and social media – should they, shouldn’t they?

That was the beginning, but it hasn’t just been social media and its opportunities and problems for the education community that has had my attention during my professional career to date. I now work in what can only be described as a “tech-saturated” school and while there are still things I am unsure of, embracing technology in my classroom meaningfully has allowed me facilitate learning in the last two years in a way that was unimaginable even 10 years ago.

I often wonder if anyone who doesn’t work in schools and left school prior to 2000 can possibly have the faintest idea about what classrooms look like now. I wonder what scenarios my parents, who were in school in the 1950s and 60s, must imagine when they think of me as a teacher. The same goes for my (much) older siblings.

In a series of three posts I want to distill the experiences I have had with a variety of different educational technologies to condense my thinking of different areas of what is a vast topic for schools. This post will look at social media, the next with mobile technology in the classroom and the final will look at screencasting.

I expect that I will use future posts to expand on elements in all of these posts.

Social Media

I have been a member of Facebook since 2006. When I joined I needed to use my university alumni email address as at the time you had to be a member of certain universities to join.  I am no stranger to the idea of social media then, but I have been very reluctant to bring it into the classroom. Doing so certainly presents challenges; exposing your personal profile to students so that they and parents know where to find you has been a perennial concern particularly if, like me, your early days on the platform were littered with tags in photos from days at university you would rather not have a grade 9 student poke around through. There are ways around this, particularly if spending hours tinkering around with your privacy settings is the way you like to spend a Friday night (are privacy settings always that private?) so the problem is not insurmountable. However, personally, I think I have been reluctant to use social media because I felt the clue was in the name. “Social” is not the same as professional.

All that said I have experimented with social media in my classroom. Initially this was with Facebook but I have moved on from this platform now and would not use it in my classroom again as I decided last year to change my name and to keep this platform specifically for non-professional life. Because of this I branched out to Twitter and LinkedIn as my professional-social media outlets and it is Twitter that I am now actively considering ways to utilize it in my teaching. Here are some of my thoughts about social media in the classroom, distiled:

Facebook can be used to create groups which can be used like classes or clubs, groupings of students based on certain attributes. Students can be invited to join these groups and this can be a great way to set assignments, share news stories or other activities with them. Student responses can be assessed and the interaction can be really positive. Also there is no need to add students as friends so if your privacy settings are secure then they won’t be able to sneak a peek at those pictures of you down the pub.

Clearly there are advantages to using Facebook in the classroom. If students are engaged and motivated it becomes very easy for them to read, and re-read shared stories or each others work. Facebook can also be used to set up dialogues, quite a interesting one from the point of view as a science teacher. Part of what I want my students to understand is the context that scientific discoveries were made in. If you can get that then you appreciate the wonder even more. Having students write up a facebook dialogue between two competing scientists (for example a dialogue between Franklin, Crick and Watson to name one) could help bring the topic to life. I haven’t actually done this but I have thought about it.

For me, because I joined Facebook as a student when social media was a new thing, I think its best for me to keep the families and students away from that account and so I move to twitter.

Twitter can be handy too. Creating a hashtag for your class and asking students to tweet short reflections, or to upload photos from class to twitter using that hashtag and/or your twitter handle, can create online repository of learning artefacts that track the learning journey in that classroom. These materials from the group can easily be found again when it comes to revision time just by searching for the handle.

I like twitter. It is open and you know how open it is. The privacy settings are simple and to be honest if you want privacy don’t use it. It is made for public engagement. The first thing that interested me was the thought that my students could tweet a well know or celeb in the science world. Someone like @AdamRutherford or@DrAliceRoberts who they see on the TV and in class as well as hear on the podcasts I play them. People like this could be contacted as expert advice for a school project although there is no guarantee they will reply.

Twitter can also be used to create dialogues between students as themselves or as actors, concepts can be explained in real time and the thinking is then recorded easily and interactively for assessment.

It is really important to divide private and professional social media; it is healthy to keep work in work and home life at home and the same goes online. Therefore I now only use Twitter for personal professional reasons, whereas Facebook I now keep private. It is also very important that the focus remains on learning not on using the technology.

Unibudy & BridgeU

I have only been a “guidance counselor” for eight months now am learning a lot about this side of the education industry/vocation/profession. One of the things that seems to be the perception of guidance counselors outside of schools is that they are the gatekeeper to the organisation that they work with. Recently, every week brings an overwhelming, inundation of emails from companies toting the latest innovation that they inevitably believe is the greatest opportunity that my students shouldn’t miss out on. Everything from summer camps and tutoring companies and new #edtech online platforms keep regular contact with me, pulling at my paranoia that I must pass their information on, otherwise my students will suffer.

For one, working in start up school I am just to busy to prioritise these emails, dealing with companies outside the school is the last thing that needs to happen when you are trying to teach, plan, assess, write the curriculum, take a school through authorization and accreditation. Add to that you are having to learn the ropes of a new job (university guidance) to present parents and students with their possible future options, with little to no real experience in “counseling” and from starting with nothing in place; no program, no relationships with universities or other schools, little internal support (everyone else is far too busy setting up their programs to help), all the while trying to convince your colleagues that the role is vital to the success of school when they query why you aren’t teaching as many periods as them. You can see why I don’t have too much time to spend on junk mail: pas de publicité, merci.

While my school is very small with a cohort of only 13 in grade 11 and no grade 12 until this September, the students are diverse. Not a single one of them is the same in terms of their background, passports held, and aspirations. While the majority of students want to apply to the UK some are considering Canada, Switzerland, Netherlands,  Australia and the US. I even have one student trying his luck with the NCAA for a basketball scholarship. While my experienced colleagues in schools with larger cohorts will say “so? our student apply to those places too”. While this is true and you will certainly have more applications to process next year; just walk in my shoes for a while. Imagine that you didn’t know anything about counseling students, about helping them identify choices, imagine that the terms NCAA, CEEB code, personal statement, common app, were all new to you. You were a Biology teacher, who suddenly had to learn all about the different systems for applying to universities in different countries, about applying for visas, about funding, about the NCAA, forge relationships with universities across the world and suck in as much information as you could about where to apply and best-fit as you could all the while trying to engage and guide young people. Do all this and teach a subject you know very well but learn a new curriculum and start teaching a new subject, assist with CIS accreditation..the list goes on. Oh and did I mention that I have a child under one. You see my predicament.

During all of this, two of these emails that passed my inbox in the last six months did catch my eye for long enough for me to dig a little deeper and pursue them and I am so glad that I did! In this post I will briefly outline who these operations are.

BridgeU

For a while I have been trying to build a case to convince my senior management that having a platform to help students identify matching universities globally, to help them develop what is known as a “list” based on their criteria. This platform should also make it easier for me to manage their applications, to track where they have got to so that I can assist them better. I am a firm believer that often what is in the best interest of the student is to have a teacher/counselor whose bests interests in doing their job are met.

Initally Naviance was the obvious choice. This is the system I first heard about and everyone I met seemed to know, use and love, which is unusual for a piece a software. Normally there are a handful of people that don’t like it, or at least find it cluncky. This seemed to be really positive thing – I wanted it. At least until I learned a little bit about BridgeU.

Naviance uses lists and drop down menus to filter data in a database to help students identify potential matching universities. It is also heavily US focussed. While it does have information about UK and other universities it appeared to me to be certainly focussed on the US market. Students can also apply through the common app through Naviance and so it offers definite advantages to managing student applications. It also had a huge price tag which just wasn’t economical with such a small number of students.

I will start working with BridgeU this month but what I know about them already has obviously sold me and I am excited to work with them. They seem to approach the problem of university choice a little more intelligently by matching students with universities based on an algorithm that maps their interests, skills etc. Now I anticipate that this won’t be perfect initially – they are a small and new company and I am sure that there will be bumps in the road on this front but the vision is there; the vision to do things more intelligently and more student-centered.

BridgeU’s outlook is truely global with a focus currently on US, UK and Canada they will also be adding soon, universities in Netherlands, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore which for me means that they will be able to help me advise a very diverse (although tiny) student body, and hopefully I will learn more along the steps of the process.

So far the service appears to have the personal touch, BridgeU is also a small start-up and they have promised flexible and responsive support as they cater to a small number of schools. This remains to be seen and I wonder how they will keep that promise if the platform grows.

Finally, aside from being an offering that is able assist my students select opportunities across the globe the platform also promises to be able help me support them through collating the schools’ grades and references by bringing my colleagues comments etc into one place where I can access them.

These are the things that have sold the platform to me – oh and the price which was competitive to say the least when compared with a giant like Naviance.

Unibudy

Yesterday, on a bustling busy street I made my way into the Starbucks of Plainpalais in Geneva, where I had the pleasure of meeting with Unibudy another company that had even persuaded me to take time out of my Easter holiday to meet them. I was a little skeptical initially over their intentions and the product they were offering but it really did not take me long to see just how exciting their product could be for some of the young people I work with.

Unibudy are essentially building a platform that will allow young people between the ages of 16-19, or in final stage of pre university education to find a mentor at a university that they like and ask that person questions. The mentor would be a current undergraduate at the university of choice and questions could be about anything, but would ideally focus on the structure of the course and the real time experience that the mentor is having. It struck me as a simple way to help to make what could be quite a daunting (and exciting!) prospect for a school student, leaving home, leaving school, going to a new country and a new learning environment a little easier to manage. I can’t think why students would not want this. The only issue is that they would have to pay for their talk time. Although the prices seem to be quite reasonable. Mentors are rated a bit like rooms on airbnb and students have the ability to filter mentors based on university and degree course. Currently it is only being developed for UK universities.

The platform is still in its infancy, or yet to be released but Unibudy also have other plans for content that would be free. This would include webinars about courses and universities from academics at those universities where students could sign up to ask questions. They also have plans for forums where students could ask general questions and dicuss their answers for free.

For students coming from a small school like mine who may not have that much to offer in terms of an alumni network this is almost like an alumni network in a can. For a little bit of cash you can get access to students studying the course that you want to apply for at the university you want to apply to. You can get the inside track and perhaps begin to break down what can seem to be a paralysingly huge change in your life into something that is a bit more manageable.

Conclusion

Both Unibudy and BridgeU are new, fresh and offering something that is a little bit different. Certainly as a counselor who is new to the game, they offer solutions that are complimentary that I can see would certainly benefit the students I work with. I am looking forward to working with both and I shall keep blogging about my experience with them over the next 12 months.

PosScript: I did want to ask Unibudy why they weren’t spelt unibuddy, why drop a d but I didn’t dare.