Tag Archives: collaborate

Google Maps for New Student Orientation

After putting student-created videos on Google Maps I’ve been thinking about how a similar process could be used to provide an orientation to the institution and community for new international students.  Some of the teachers at Ohio University are already well on their way to creating such a map.

Videos of some of the popular destinations have been recorded, posted to YouTube, and embedded into the popup balloons on the map.  [Note: Not all of these features will work on the video I have embedded above.  Click on “view larger map” to see the fully-featured version.] Others include other useful information such as websites and phone numbers.  This was all teacher-created, but the opportunity exists to allow student contributions.

This is something we really need to pull together.  Know of a similar example?  Leave a comment.

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Top 5 Technologies I Should Be Using

2 kids wearing 3D glasses.

Last week, I listed the top 5 technologies that you should be using if you are an ESL teacher in 2010.  Today, I present the list of the next 5 technologies I need to explore and possibly add to my bag of tricks.  If you have experience with them, leave your opinions, suggestions, and tips in the comments.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the (near) future:

1. Google Wave – Occasionally billed as the Future Of Email, Wave combines email, IM, and the collaborative parts of Google Docs.  Watch the full Google demo video or the lower resolution abridged version to get the idea.  This is one of those really cool technologies that leaves you asking, “So what do I do with it?”  I hope to have answers to that question soon.

2. Zorap – Like Wave, Zorap combines several disparate elements into one collaborative space.  From what I’ve seen, a space can be set up for many users quickly and easily.  That space can then be used for audio, video, and text conversations and files and documents can be shared to the group.  See the demo for more.  For a free application, it integrates a surprising number of interesting options for remote learning.

3. Ning – A social network akin to Facebook, but it’s not Facebook.  There are many existing nings for topic areas such as The English Companion Ning (“Where English teachers go to help each other”) and Classroom 2.0 (“the social network for those interested in Web 2.0 and Social Media in education”).  Plus, you can create a Ning for a topic that you like or a specific group of people, like the students in your class.  Because it’s a closed system, Ning may be more useful to anyone who can’t (or doesn’t want to) use Facebook or other social networks with their students.

4. Screenr – A free, web-based screen recorder.  Just drag a frame over the part of your screen you want to capture and Screenr will record a video of what happens inside that frame until you tell it to stop.  Great for creating demonstration videos or capturing a presentation.

5. Prezi – When I first saw Prezi, I thought it was just another slide sharing application.  Since then, I’ve seen some slick, remotely controlled presentations that use Prezi to great effect.  One of the best features is the ability to smoothly zoom in and out on portions of the presentation.  One large document can contain everything from headings to footnotes with each part zooming and snapping into place on the screen as it is selected.  This works equally well if the presenter is guiding the presentation or if an individual wants to explore it on his own.  For example, take a look at this Grammar Review Prezi.  You can use the arrows to go forward and back within the presentation, but you can also take control by zooming in and out, dragging the page around, and clicking on the text to zoom to a specific point.  Once you get used to this style of navigation (or, rather, every style of navigation simultaneously) many interesting ways to structure and organize information become possible.

Bonus: Sikuli – I’ve used applications with macros before, but Sikuli’s approach is unique because it can create a macro for any application using your computers GUI.  Think that sounds geeky?  Then the demonstration video might also be a little intimidating.  The gist of it is, you can automate almost any multi-step task on your computer, just by writing a simple script for Sikuli to follow.  While I can’t think of any tasks that are repetitive enough that I’d actually save time by learning how to use Sikuli (and, frankly, I’d rather play Bejeweled myself, thank you very much), the potential of this application is intriguing.

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Video Game Class

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Scratch games, andimations and simulations.

When I first heard about MIT’s Scratch programming language, I thought it was interesting because it seemed like a simple but powerful way for kids to create games.  Scratch is an object-oriented, event-driven, visual programming environment.  All of these terms are explained in detail in an article in the current issue of Make Magazine, but the gist is Scratch uses draggable blocks to create programs, rather than lines of code, which simplifies the process of creating a game (or presentation, animation, etc.).  In fact, it was reading the Make article that got me thinking about another video game class.

A year ago, I taught a course in Second Life with mixed results.  This virtual environment is rich with detail and almost infinitely customizable, but the learning curve was steep and students found it difficult to collaborate within Second Life.  Scratch, by contrast, is very simple — there are collections of games created by kids posted online.  Once games are posted, they can be downloaded, edited, and mashed up as part of the learning process.

So, would Scratch make a good foundation for an elective class in an intensive ESL program?  In a four-week class, the first week could be exploring scratch projects and learning some of the basics, the second week could be devoted to a small animation project, and the final two weeks could be devoted to a final game project.  I would be inclined to get students working in pairs so there would be more interaction (it would be an ESL class, after all).  I don’t have any experience with this programming language or project management in game development, but if the students were enthusiastic enough, and I learned some of the basics before the class, I think we could all learn as we go along and wind up with some interesting projects that students would be proud to share online.

Will I offer this class?  Not sure.  I’m going to try to track down some students who would like to give it a test-drive to see if it could work.  If things go smoothly, maybe it’s something I would try in the summer.  Stay tuned.

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