Alternative Presentation Resources

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

School buildings closed for the rest of the year and universities shuttered their doors, but education must and does go on. In my formerly face-to-face classes, presentations we scheduled for live audiences are now going to be online. Alternatives to live presentations are many, and I will share some of them in this post.

First things first, though: How do you choose an online presentation tool?

  1. Determine what aspects of the presentation you will assess and how that will be done. What gets assessed depends on your tolerance for new technologies (or willingness to try them) and that of your students. Remember that many of them will be trying out tools they have never used before.
  2. Are you able to support your students as they try out new digital tools? If not, are they able to find the support they need? Check out this post on the lazy classroom for a few ideas about how much to challenge your students to try new tech tools.

Onward to some curated resources that you may find helpful. Add your own in the comments, and you might enjoy this post by our colleague, Renee Hobbs where she shares examples of some digital tools she uses.

People working

There are a variety of free digital, web-based resources available for instructors, educators, and learners to create useful and meaningful multimedia presentations. Keep reading.

MULTIMEDIA PRESENTATION TOOLS

Tool Options

Glogster: Tool for creating interactive, innovative multimedia posters, glogs, and more. Read more here.

Prezi: Tool for creating visual presentations that allows you or the viewer to zoom in “to the details” or out to show the “big picture.”

VoiceThread: VoiceThread is an interactive tool that permits creators to add video, still images, audio, and text using a variety of tools.  Creators can enable comment features that permit viewers to add their own thoughts to the presentation.

Flipgrid allows users to post short videos to which others can reply asynchronously.

Narrated PowerPoint® posted to SlideShare, AuthorStream, Vimeo, or YouTube. PowerPoint includes a narration/dictate option and can be uploaded or converted for online presentation using one of the tools linked above.

PowToon is a popular and powerful video tool that is user-friendly.

You can also read the following reviews of some of these tools and a discussion of other tools here:

8 Great Free Digital Presentation Tools for Teachers to Try This Summer http://www.emergingedtech.com/2011/07/8-great-free-digital-presentation-tools-for-teachers-to-try-this-summer/ *

Teacher’s Recommendation for Academic Uses of 5 Fun Free Presentation Tools http://www.emergingedtech.com/2012/01/teachers-recommendations-for-academic-uses-of-5-fun-free-presentation-tools/

Links You Might Have Missed—Presentation Tools http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2009/03/links-you-might-have-missed.html

*  Note that Vuvox no longer exists.

Remember when designing your multimedia presentation:

  1. Simplicity adds value.
  2. Aim for a few words or phrases on a slide (the nugget of information).
  3. Aim for one powerful image on a slide. That image could be accompanied by minimal text, a symbol, or no text at all.
  4. Be creative in capturing and maintaining attention.
  5. Eliminate distraction: use animations, flash, or sound effects sparingly and only when necessary to get the point across.
  6. Avoid slide transitions.
  7. Design artfully:
    1. What does your audience already know?
    2. What do you want your viewers to learn?
    3. Check PresentationZen for more ideas on artful presentation design.

Learn more about Multimedia and Fair Use

Working with multimedia, almost invariably, means incorporating the works of others into a presentation (cf. Huffman, 2010). Teachers and students do have some latitude, called Fair Use. However, it is always an effective practice to make sure that the intellectual property of others are attributed or cited in any presentation. While there can be substantial penalties for infringing on the works created by others, the most important point, arguably, is that attributing the works of others is simply good citizenship. Creators want credit for their work, and any user is a potential creator, as well. In digital environments, creators, authors, and users, take care of one another by properly attributing the sources they use. Though teachers, professors, and students are very familiar with citation of text-based sources (e.g. APA, MLA, Chicago), these style guides often do not provide sufficient guidance when a student, for example, wants to incorporate images, audio, or video created by others in a multimedia presentation.  

An excellent place to begin learning about digital citizenship and fair use is the MediaLab at the University of Rhode Island. Teacher and student resources can be found on the MediaLab website.

Though not exhaustive, these websites provide a place to begin looking for music and image sources that students and teachers might use in their own multimedia presentations while considering the rights of others who have contributed their works. 

#SocialDistance #onlineteaching #COVID-19 #RemoteTeaching

Reference

Huffman, S. (2010, May/June). The missing link: The lack of citations and copyright notices in multimedia presentations. TechTrends, 54(3), pp. 38-44.

Course Load Calculator

Have you ever wondered just how much work your class or course actually entails for students, or if you are a student just how much time you need to invest in your coursework outside of class.  This guest post by my colleague at the Center for Learning and Teaching at The American University in Cairo looks the advantages and limitations of just such a tool. Check it out!

A Guest Post by Maha Bali

Would You Use a Course Workload Calculator?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This is the second time I come across something like this. A course workload calculator. This one from Rice University (I have a soft spot for them because I taught there in 2008).

https://cte.rice.edu/workload

Rice University

On the one hand, I feel like it can be useful for people who teach courses at the same level to compare their workloads to each other or what is expected.

I do like that they ask if readings have new concepts or are difficult, for example, so I think some people might find that useful, e.g. should they assign the reading and expect students to understand it before they discuss it in class? Perhaps certain readings can be done before, but others after. Also, the calculator doesn’t account for reading ability esp for non-native speakers. But it does allow you to adjust the reading speed for example, which I guess to be honest you may need to do for different segments of students. I once had two freshmen in my mostly senior and junior class, and they truly struggled with some of the readings. The other students had no problems at all, either they were better readers or better bluffers (which, honestly, is a good strategic learner move).
Read More (redirects to Maha’s blog, Reflecting Allowed).

 

My Life as a Reader and Author

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

One of my goals as a teacher and professor is to guide my students to think of themselves as readers, authors, and creators. To help students realize just how much reading and writing have played a part in their lives, I use an assignment I call My Life as a Reader and Author.  The assignment involves the creation of a mandala with symbols representing different aspects of literacy in the students’ lives.  The directions, paired with examples in the PowerPoint are fairly simple:

The texts we read and the texts we compose can have a powerful influence on our identities.  In this assignment, you will create a visual representation of your life as a reader and author using the mandala to organize and capture your ideas. Briefly explain each symbol.

Zahraa created this mandala, below, using digital tools.

Mandala

Zahraa’s Mandala

She then described the significance of the images.

I divided my mandala into four sections:

  • Reading Section

 I added a photo of my laptop as usually I use it to read online and also to download softcopies of the books that I want to read. I like to read on my laptop as I have different folders to save whatever I want to read and highlight on it.

I added the photo of the book the power of thinking without thinking. It is the most recent book that I have read. I found this book so interesting and I learnt a lot from it. In addition, I recommended this book to my friends who do not like to read very much as I found the author’s way of delivering information is so good.

I added google logo as it is my close friend when I need to know or read about anything.

  • Junior development section

In this section I added a photo of my weekly visit to children orphanages. I am a part of Volunteers In Action (VIA) club at AUC. Every week end we visit an orphanage and we give sessions to children about different things like peace, cleanness, attitude and manners. I added this photo because these children motivate me to read more about the topic before delivering it to them in order to teach them in a correct good way.

I added photos of cleanness and right & wrong photo to highlight some of the things I teach them during the sessions

  • Experience

While reading I experience new things and know a lot of new information. This photo describes things that one can achieve while reading like how to manage your time, select your goals and how to learn from others mistakes, especially if you are reading about someone’s bibliography.

  • Writing

In the writing section I added a photo to describe my favorite time of writing which is in the early morning with a cup of coffee.

Malika chose to combine shapes from the Internet and then draw her symbols.

Malika's Mandala

Malika’s Mandala

Resources

Mandala Generators Online:

Staedtler:

MandalaCreator:

MandalaMaker:

ColorMandala:

DrawMandala:

Mandala Creator:

Mandala Creation Software:

MandalaMakerTM :

Mandala Maker from Tucows:

Adobe products and plugins (e.g., Illustrator, Photoshop) that can be used to create mandalas).

Illustrator:

MirrorMe plugin for Illustrator:

PhotoShop:

Inspiration:

Mandala Project:

Writing for Science Learning: Book Creator

by Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Science teacher Kathy Blakemore has inspired generations of seventh-graders to take better care of our planet, to be curious about all its inhabitants, and to learn more about what makes its ecosystems work as they do.

Recently, Kathy and her students at Elsinore Middle School in Lake Elsinore, California decided to take their learning public. Using Book Creator, the students published a book titled, Incredible Invertebrates. Students worked in teams to identify sources about various phyla and then synthesize graphics and their reading. They learned about what it takes to write a book that is appealing to their audience as well.

Amazing Invertebrates

Incredible Invertebrates Click to read this book, made with Book Creator https://read.bookcreator.com

Each chapter is organized describing where the invertebrates live, what threats exist to their survival, and what fun facts the student scientists and authors uncovered. I was very impressed that the students cited their sources and identified key vocabulary that their readers will want to understand.

Congratulations to Mrs. B and her 7th-grade GEMS students on a job well done.

The Photo Essays

by Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Last month, I wrote about the tools for creating photo essays.  This month, I’ll show you a few.  The idea was to use photography as a medium for thinking about identity in my EDUC 1099 Selected Topics course.

Farida wrote about and photographed her home that she shares with her extended family. The family votes on important issues. Click the photo to see Farida’s photo essay on Tumblr.

Farida

Using Exposure.co, Salma explored her home and travels.

Salma Megahed

https://salmamegahed.exposure.co/a-photo-essay/embed/cover?embed=trueA Photo essay by Salma Megahed on Exposure

Scrolling through her photo gallery, Dinah discovered that she had many images looking skyward. With Adobe Spark, she created this essay. Dinah

Using the idea of perspectives through doors and windows, Iman shared her essay on Tumblr.

Iman

KarimKarim looked at The American University in Cairo campus from unique angles taking us at the end to his favorite place at the University.

The Photo Essay Project

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

This semester, I assigned my undergraduates to create a photo essay defining the places that have had the most impact on who they are and who they might become.  Their photo essays are due next week, so this week I am sharing some of the photo essay websites and software tools they are using.  Today, they explored the affordances of each. I provided a list of questions (you will find them below) to guide their choices.

Dear Literacy Beat readers, if you have a site or tool to share, please add it in the comments.

Photos

iPhone Photos

Platforms

  1. Tumblr
  2. Instagram
  3. WordPress
  4. Spark from Adobe
  5. Exposure
  6. Ghost
  7. PowerPoint Online and Slideshare, Youtube or Vimeo (convert slide decks to video), Authorstream
  8. Prezi

Pro-Tip: What’s your statement about the photos you choose? Can you write one (or maybe two) sentences that capture the main idea of your photo essay? Is it unique enough that others will want to view your essay?

 

Photo Editing Tools

  1. Canva
  2. Ribbet
  3. GIMP
  4. Photo Resizer
  5. net
  6. Photoshop Express
  7. PIXLR

A note about intellectual property: Any work you use that you did not write or create must be attributed.  This includes music (and be aware that using copyrighted music could result in your project being taken down by the platform or host).

Pro Tip: Create a rough draft of your essay in order to check out the features of the platform and tools you use.  Try different ways of arranging your photos, text (including captions), and titles.  Later, you can hide or delete the rough draft.

Questions / Affordances

Check out the sites and tools (software) on the first page and review a couple of examples. What affordances does each offer your project?

  • What does it cost?
  • Do you need an account?
  • Can you make the site available to anyone?
  • Does the site privilege images, text, or both?
  • What features does the site or tool have that others may not have?
  • Is the site or tool mobile friendly? Laptop friendly?
  • Does it have sharing tools (e.g., Facebook, Twitter)?
  • Are there advertisements? How intrusive are they?
  • Is the platform easy to navigate and provide tools that make it easy for you to create a photo essay?

Two notes about color:

  1. Don’t overdo it!
  2. Make sure the colors you choose for frames, text, and so on are easy to read against the backgrounds you choose

La Asociación Española de Lectura y Escritura – Vocabulary

Literacy Beat blogger Dana L. Grisham and guest blogger Linda Smetana will be presenting strategies and techniques for vocabulary learning at 4:15 on July 5, 2017 in Madrid, Spain.  Some of their resources can be downloaded from Literacy Beat. Be sure to check these out!

conferencia-inglc3a9s-negativo

READING AND WRITING WITH NEW TECHNOLOGIES TO SUPPORT VOCABULARY LEARNING

Frayer Model [Frayer Model]

Vocabulary Self-collection Strategy + [VSS+ Worksheet PDF]  [VSS+ Word worksheet]

V-Tweets [Vtweet blank Worksheet PDF] [Vtweet blank Worksheet for Word]

Session description:
Effective vocabulary instruction for all students has gained importance over the past decade. Graves (2016) reminds us that vocabulary learning is of enormous significance, that we cannot teach all the words that must be learned, and that it is even more challenging when we teach students who come from varied backgrounds and languages (p. 4-5). Effective vocabulary instruction provides access to academic text for all students and technology is an effective tool for vocabulary learning, particularly when students are engaged in generative and active learning (Grisham & Smetana, 2011). Effective vocabulary instruction promotes a lively interest in words through student expression, playing with words, building on individual interests as well as curriculum needs, and emphasizing self-efficacy in word learning (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2008; Graves & Watts-Taffy, 2008). Researchers conducted several studies designed to test the efficacy of three generative technology strategies for increasing the academic vocabulary of K-12 students. Each study built upon the one prior to refine the strategies. They were based upon the idea that technology should be generative in the sense that the children should create some authentic product from its use.

Technology in the K-12 classroom is no longer optional; it is imperative that teachers know how to teach with it and students know how to learn with it (Tondeur, et al, 2011). Thus, teachers must be prepared to address content standards with useful technological tools. The workshop consists of two parts beginning with the presentation of research on the strategies and the increased emphasis on disciplinary literacy and academic vocabulary (Wolsey, Smetana & Grisham, 2015). Students who are more engaged with word learning and who make connections between words necessary to understand text make deeper conceptual learning (Castek, Dalton, & Grisham, 2012). Repeated encounters with words in various contexts and modalities, social interactions while learning new words, and meaningful generation of learning products (Coiro, Castek, Sekeres, & Guzniczak, 2014; Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, Castek, & Henry, 2013; Marzano, 2009) assist in vocabulary learning. Linking images and linguistic information in the brain aids such learning and retention (Sadoski & Paivio, 2007).

In the second part of the workshop, participants are invited to learn to use the strategies themselves, so that they may use them and/or incorporate them into their instructional practice. Strategies include technology-rich versions of the Frayer model, Tweeting for vocabulary learning (V-Tweets) and Vocabulary Self-Selection Strategy Plus (VSS+) all of which are situated within the challenges of academic texts and the need for close reading. Participants are provided with 21st Century strategies that connect to and engage today’s diverse student population and provide access to content.

Read more on Literacy Beat:

Frayer Model

VSS+ here and here

 

 

Story Shares – A Digital Library for Teens and Young Adults

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Recently, I participated in a Twitter chat hosted by the International Literacy Association #ILAChat and Sam Patterson (@SamPatue) on the topic of the Association’s latest What’s Hot in Literacy report.  While there, I met the Story Shares team.

Story Shares in their own words, “Story Shares is a non-profit organization devoted to inspiring reading practice and improving literacy skills.”  The organization leverages technology to bring books worth reading to teens and young adults who struggle. As most readers of Literacy Beat who work with adolescents know, finding material that is not overwhelming is a challenge.

Story Shares Home Page Screenshot

Story Shares Home Page

Story Shares has created an online space that provides opportunities for writers to publish their work in a variety of genres and fills the need of teen readers for something meaty but not impossible to read.

Romeo and Me

Story Shares Digital Book

The online book collection is searchable by the usual indicators (author, title)
but also by interest level and three readability indices.  The books are easy to navigate by chapter and by scrolling. Controls include a bookmark, a word lookup tool that brings up definitions of challenging words, and a tool to mark a book for reading later. Some readers prefer books on paper, so Story Shares makes some of their collection available for purchase as a paperbound book.

Because some readers benefit from hearing the words of a book read aloud, the Story Shares team has built in a text-to-speech reader. As the reader speaks the words, the written words are highlighted on the page.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela: In His Own Words for iPad. Author: Ruth Chasek

I sampled the books on my computer and on my iPad. Both worked perfectly with the books on Story Shares.

For authors who wish to write for the teen and young adult audience, a user-friendly interface allows the writer to focus on the narrative and not the technology.  I tried it and found the graphic user interface (GUI) very easy to use.

Because Story Shares is a nonprofit organization that serves students around the world, they also appreciate donations. Just click here to help them out.

Pecha Kucha, a Presentation Format with Many Possibilities

By guest posters W. Ian O’Byrne & Sue Ringler Pet, & regular blogger Thomas DeVere Wolsey

The nature of literacy is rapidly evolving and these changes demand an expanded view of “text” to include visual, digital and other multimodal formats (Rose & Meyer, 2002; New London Group, 2000; Alvermann, 2002). A richer and more complex definition of literacy requires a complex theoretical framing of the “multiple realities” that exist between educational research and practice (Labbo & Reinking, 1999).  Several colleagues* decided to experiment with the pecha kucha presentation style at a session of the Literacy Research Association, December 5th, 2013. What they learned from the session and their ideas for PK-12 classrooms and teacher preparation coursework is summarized in this post of Literacy Beat. Our pecha kucha session used multiple methods united by similar perspectives to investigate shifts in the space and stuff (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006) of learning.

Evolving pedagogical models for new literacies and emerging technologies hold “explosive possibilities” (Barab & Kirshner, 2001) for reading and writing spaces. Specifically, these studies examine literacies as cutting across chronotopes of time and space (Bakhtin, 1937) and evolving into “communities of inquiry” in which participants require new knowledge and identities (Gee, 2005).

Since the technological advances documented in these studies drove much of the change that we see in information and communication, researchers and educators attempted to answer the important question:  How can the use of new and digital literacies in instruction enable “explosive possibilities” for meaning-making and identity construction? These studies examined literacies and digital texts while documenting perceived changes in social practice through the lens of teachers and students as agents of change.

What is Pecha Kucha?

Pecha kucha, Japanese for the sound of conversation, is a presentation method in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (6 minutes and 40 seconds in total). The format utilizes images more than words, keeps presentations concise and fast-paced, powers multiple-speaker events, keeps the interest level up, and gives more people the chance to show. Would you like to hear several Japanese speakers pronounce the term? Click here.

Teachers and Students use Pecha Kucha

Pecha kucha is well-suited for the age of the Common Core and other rigorous standards.  The Common Core calls for students to evaluate information from diverse sources, present information in an appropriate style, and make strategic use of digital media. Further, the pecha kucha style requires student presenters to be concise and choose their words and images wisely and well. Students might present pecha kucha via webcast or video (think, YouTube or Vimeo) so that parents and other community members can participate. They may work in small groups around selected topics. Who says every presentation has to be made to the entire class, anyway?

Teacher Educators and Teacher Candidates use Pecha Kucha

The IRA standards for Literacy Professionals call for teacher candidates to employ traditional print, digital, and online resources to “meet the needs of diverse students” and “prepare learners for literacy tasks of the 21st century.” Arguably positioned in one of the most influential roles with regard to the explosive possibilities of digital literacies in PK-12 education, teacher educators must continually model well-considered integration of digital tools in university classrooms. Within the context of a disciplinary literacy course, for instance, professors may choose the pecha kucha platform for in-class presentations in lieu of the tired Powerpoint® platform, especially in cases where visuals are preferable to print text, to effectively encapsulate and express important concepts, terms, or ideas. In this setting, pecha kucha presentations can be posted and revisited on Blackboard or similar course platforms for review. Professors may also invite undergraduate and graduate students to learn and employ pecha kucha to explore and represent basic literacy concepts with digital images and metaphors — and teach them to classmates. Teaching and/learning such “basic” literacy terms (e.g., phonemic awareness, syntax, semantics) through a multimodal digital platform (pecha kucha) may lead to enriched understandings of the ways in which reading involves the coordination of multiple systems including traditional “components” theory of teaching reading instruction as well as sociocultural theories of literacy acquisition.

How to Create Pecha Kucha: Resources and More

What are the steps to creating a pecha kucha presentation?

  • This website lists presentation steps in pecha kucha format and a template is available there, as well.
  • A few tips for beginners might be helpful to teachers who want to coach their students and minimize frustration.
  • Richard Edwards suggests that pecha kucha can be easily adapted to two-person teams; that is, a 20 slide X 20 second presentation by one student can become a 10 slide X 20 second presentation by two students. He also staggers presentations over class sessions such that no one class session is devoted to a long series of pecha kucha presentations, which, like traditional presentations, can be quite tiring for the audience.
  • Because pecha kucha is image intensive, it is very important that students learn the basic principles of Fair Use and apply them. This post from an earlier LiteracyBeat column may be a good start.  Learn more about Creative Commons and how it works to give students and other users the tools to share and use the creative work of others.

Similar to pecha kucha, Ignite presentations include 20 slides but they advance at the rate of 15 seconds each (total of five minutes). Some fairly good information about both ignite and pecha kucha are available from Trinity Valley Schools (opens as a PDF).

Assessing Pecha Kucha

Of course, any presentation in a classroom is an opportunity to learn and a chance to demonstrate what has been learned.  Assessment includes the possibility of feedback about content knowledge, processes leading to learning, and presentation, speaking, and listening proficiency appropriate to the grade level. Mr. Holliday designed this rubric as a means of assessing and providing feedback on the pecha kucha format. This university rubric from iRubric takes into account content knowledge  and this  one, by Danny, is designed with the junior high or middle school audience in mind. Educator Jeff Utecht suggests that participants rate the pecha kucha presentation using a form in Google Docs for quick analysis and feedback. Also on the blog post are additional ideas and a rationale for using pecha kucha.

Typical assessments measure and provide feedback as to how the presenter met the pecha kucha criteria (including 20 slides X 20 seconds each, 6 minutes 40 seconds total), concision, design, and cohesion, as well as content. Choo (2010) suggests that makers and composers of digital texts consider the following:

•           How do words function to “relay” or contribute to the meaning of an image?

•           Where will the image be placed in relation to the words and why?

•           How much of the frame-space will the image occupy, compared to the words?

•           Is the focal point of the text on the image or on its words, and why? (p. 172)

Here is one attempt at pecha kucha by DeVere recreated from the December 2013 presentation at Literacy Research Association. It is not quite perfect (you will notice it is longer than the allotted time!), I am sure you’ll agree, but do play the video and let us know what you see.

What have you done in your PK-12 or university classroom with pecha kucha?

*Presenters at the Literacy Research Association, Dallas, TX: Kelly Chandler-Olcott (Chair), Stergios Botzakis (Discussant), Sue Ringler Pet, Greg McVerry, Junko Yukota with William Teale, Joan A. Rhodes, Katina Zammit, William Ian O’Byrne, Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Guest posters:

W. Ian O’Byrne is an assistant professor of educational technologies at the University of New Haven. Read his blog post on the topic of pecha kucha here.

Sue Ringler-Pet works at Iona College, and you can read more about her here.

References:

Alvermann, D.E. (2002). Adolescents and literacies in a digital world. New York: Peter Lang.

Barab, S.A., & Kirshner, D. (2001). Guest editors’ introduction: Rethinking methodology in the learning sciences. The Journal of the Learning Sciences,10(1-2), 5-15.

Bolter, J.D. (1991). Writing space: The computer, hypertext, and the history of writing. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Choo, S.S. (2010). Writing through visual acts of reading: Incorporating visual aesthetics in integrated writing and reading tasks. High School Journal, 93(4), 166-176.

Gee, J. (2005). Semiotic social spaces and affinity spaces. In D. Barton & K. Tusting (Eds.). Beyond communities of practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Labbo, L. & Reinking, D. (1999). Negotiating the multiple realities of technology in literacy research and instruction. Reading Research Quarterly, 34(4), 478-492. doi:    10.1598/RRQ.34.4.5

Lankshear, C. and Knobel, M. (2006). New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Classroom Learning. 2nd ed. Maidenhead & New York: Open University Press.

The New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60–92.

Rose, D. H., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Retrieved from http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ideas/tes/

Vocabulary Self-Collection Plus, Part 2

By Linda Smetana, Dana L. Grisham and Thomas DeVere Wolsey,

Last week, we introduced Vocabulary Self-Collection Plus (VSSPlus). Our goal in modifying this time-tested approach (Haggard, 1982) for the digital age (Grisham, Smetana, & Wolsey, in press) was to create an intersection where students might interact with each other in face-to-face spaces to add depth to their vocabulary and concept knowledge. At the same time, we wanted to use technology in a generative way (Grisham & Smetana, 2011) so that students became proficient users of technology while learning academic vocabulary related to their science lesson. This week, want to introduce the technologies we used, and share some lessons learned.

We chose two presentation methods, PowerPoint® and Thinglink, for the students’ e-dictionary entries.  However, many other tools are possible options.  Students might use Voicethread, Prezi, or Popplet, for example. In our work with these fifth-graders, we chose to limit the tools to one that is more familiar to them, and one that would be new.  Embedded in the technology task, we also helped students create audio recordings and showed them how to further deepen their word learning using the Wordsift website.

Wordsift

In Wordsift, students type in a word and produce a visual that links synonyms and related words. For example, “melting point” is a science term students in fifth-grade might be expected to know. By entering “melt” into the Wordsift visual thesaurus, students see related terms including Latinate versions and synonyms.  Please see figure 1.  In addition, Wordsift has many other capabilities including creating a word cloud, executing an image search, or sorting words according to academic word lists. Students in our exploratory group did not have access to screen capture tools, but a few used drawing tools to recreate the visual thesaurus they created in Wordsift.

Figure 1: Wordsift Result for “Melt”

Wordsift-melt

Wordsift

PowerPoint

While PowerPoint is a familiar tool to many, some features are not widely known.  We recently asked a group of teacher candidates if they knew PowerPoint could support narration they created, and only two responded that they knew of this feature. In our work with fifth-graders, the students use voice recorders to create the audio, and then they attached those to the PowerPoint slide.  We found that saving the slide as a PowerPoint show (rather than a regular PowerPoint) kept all the audio intact and could be used on any computer using free PowerPoint Show software if the regular version of PowerPoint was not available. Many of the students in the class started out exploring Thinglink, but because they were more comfortable with PowerPoint and recognized the time constraints of the task, switched to that format.

Learn more about adding audio narration to PowerPoint by clicking here.

Thinglink

The Thinglink tool intrigued students, but it required some playing around as they tried to figure out how best to use the tool. In PowerPoint, students could add text and images in any order, but in Thinglink, they needed to locate an appropriate image first.  Then, they could use the editing tools to tag the image with the text such as their definitions and rationales.  Find out more about Thinglink and view some examples by clicking here. An additional challenge was to upload the audio portion of the VSSPlus presentations to a podcast sharing site (we used Podbean), then link the podcast to the Thinglink.  To save time and avoid student frustration, we did this for the students.  For this reason, it was very important that students included their group names on the Thinglink as well as in their audio narration making it possible to easily match up the files.  Figure 2 is an embedded Thinglink created by students you can try.

Figure 2: Thinglink: Boiling Point (Click the image to view the interactive Thinglink)

The E-dictionary

We used Wikispaces to create the first page of the e-dictionary which you can see in figure 3 below. Additional pages for future learning can be added easily.  Students and parents can view the work at will, and learn from each other’s presentations. Other wiki tools, blogs, or even a learning management system (Canvas, BlackBoard, etc.) might be used to host the e-dictionary.

Figure 3: E-dictionary on Wikispaces

edictionary

E-Dictionary

Moving Forward

The first time out took a little over three hours because students had to learn to use certain aspects of the technology (inserting images, finding images, creating audio files, and so on). However, in the future, they will not have this hurdle, and the task will proceed much more rapidly.  The important aspect of this task is that students had to discuss the terms amongst themselves, evaluate the relevant aspects of images they chose together, plan their audio components, and work as a team to assemble the final product. Throughout the process, they became deeply aware of the relevant attributes of the concept represented by the term and also what it was not, in some cases.

For future VSSPlus projects, we would appoint a Wikispaces librarian whose job is to put the final presentations in the e-dictionary.  Some students were more adept at using the audio recording tools, and would become the audio engineers.  Thinglink aficionados are appointed the go-to person for Thinglink questions, and PowerPoint specialists who know how to link or insert audio, use the drawing tools, and save in PowerPoint Show format would have a place to shine. Finally, a means of sharing the work is needed.  A data projector with each group presenting their work to the class is a good start. If the classroom has a few computers or laptops, students could rotate through stations viewing and listening to the presentations at some stations while doing other academic work at different stations.

We hope you will try VSSPlus. Let us know what ideas you have to change it up and how well your students learned from the experience.

References

Haggard, M. (1982) The vocabulary self-collection strategy: An active approach to word learning.  Journal of Reading, 26(3), pp. 203-207.

Grisham, D.L. & Smetana, L. (2011) Generative technology for teacher educators. Journal of Reading Education, 36, 3, 12-18.

Grisham, D. L., Smetana, L., & Wolsey, T.D. (in preparation).  Post-reading vocabulary development through VSSPlus. In T. Rasinski, R. Ferdig, & K. Pytash, (Eds.). Technology and reading [working title]. Bloomington, IN: Solution-Tree.

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