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Replacing the Friday folder with a podcast: Voxie Pro Recorder

When you change the way that teaching/learning happens in a classroom or a school, you quickly discover that additional changes are needed to support it.  We have been in the process of learning ALL of those things that are affected by changing the classroom model.  At Anastasis Academy, we are largely paperless.  Our students still write with paper pencil, create posters and projects, but much of their work is done in Evernote, iMovie, Stop Motion HD, Pages, Keynote, and Notes on their iPads.  When you take away worksheets, traditional quizzes and tests from the classroom, there isn’t a whole lot to send home as a “Friday folder.” As teachers, we were pretty comfortable with not having a Friday folder.  We were seeing all of the incredible evidences of learning that the students were creating.  The problem: parents aren’t always seeing those same evidences.  Either the parents aren’t sure where to look, kids are feeling tight lipped or blogs aren’t subscribed to properly or read regularly.  We were hearing often from parents, ‘I know that they are progressing, I know that amazing things are happening, but I’m not quite sure how to prove it to myself.  I’m not sure where to look.’  Because we also don’t give homework, parents can’t use that as a gauge of what kids are doing in the classroom.  So, we needed a solution.  One day while @Matthewquigley and I were rehashing and wracking our brains for the best way to do this without taxing our teachers to the point of burnout, @Matthewquigley had a stroke of pure genius.  “What if we did something like a podcast Friday folder?” Brilliant! The more we thought about it, the more we liked audio as a solution.  @Matthewquigley and I can walk into a classroom at any given moment and ask students and teachers what they are observing/inferring/learning/noticing and they can give you a great answer.  It is easy to talk about students and to tell those great stories about a student that often get forgotten before parent-teacher conferences.  It is equally easy to talk about the work you are doing in class, when you are still in class where one project isn’t lost among the plethora of activities and learning that happened in the day/week. We went full steam ahead with this idea.  First, I looked at audio recording apps for the teacher iPads.  I wanted something that would be easy to use, give us the ability to categorize, easily sync over wifi, and email the audio recording to parents and admin.  The clear winner was Voxie Pro.  It was simple enough to do everything we needed, without too many extra bells and whistles to distract. Here is what we did: Length- 30 seconds to 1:30 per student Frequency- every other week Purpose: to help communicate the progress that students are making, to collect an audio body of evidence that helps tell the story of student growth, to aid in the building of the digital portfolio. Teacher should include: what has been observed, noticed, inferred Topics: Social/emotional, spiritual, academic Student should include:  Something they are proud of, want to share and where parent can find it in pictures, Evernote, iMovie, the interwebs, etc. Student could read a few sentences to show progress in skills, explain Bible verse they discussed that week, re-tell a story, explain a new concept, etc. Teacher Template Student:___________________ Week: _____________________ What I noticed/observed/inferred: Spiritually:_____________________ Academically:____________________ Socially/Emotionally:___________________ Student Template A project/blog post/discussion that I want to share/am proud of: _________________________ My parents can learn more about it here:________________________________________ The first wave of these audio emails went out today.  They turned out great! Parents know exactly what is happening in the classroom as it pertains to their child and kids are sharing work that they are proud of and reminding themselves (and mom and dad) where they can find it.  Not only do parents have a great bi-weekly update specific to their child, they have a timeline of learning and progress at the end of the year.  Imagine the implication of starting a program like this in kindergarten, and following the student all the way through middle school.  You would have a week-by-week of what was learned, what strengths and weaknesses were exhibited, but also have that precious student voice throughout the years. What I like about the audio Friday folder, is the ability to say more about a child than a worksheet with a star at the top can.  With the audio, you can communicate things about the development of a child.  Their progress in math when they struggled and struggled, but stuck with it to the end.  Their empathy for other students when they notice another student who is lonely in the lunch room and get up and invite their friends to sit with that student.  Their maturation as they handle a conflict with another student appropriately.  I especially love that students can highlight a project(s) that they are particularly proud of and help mom and dad find it.  That is a dinner conversation starter!  With any luck, we will forever banish the “what did you do at school today?” question.  In it’s place, “I’m really proud of you for sticking with that math when it was so difficult, what was it that you were working on?  How did you finally solve it?” Awesome.

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Answer Garden

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Character Education, collaboration, Evaluate, Geography, History, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 26-07-2010

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What it is: I learned about Answer Garden from an interactive post on Suzanne Whitlow’s excellent blog, Suzanne’s BlogAnswer Garden is a “new minimalistic feedback tool.”  It can be used as an online answer collection tool or embedded on a website or blog.  An Answer Garden is created as easily as entering a question and clicking create, no registration needed.  Embed the Answer Garden on any blog, website, or social network page using the embed code provided.  You can also give students a direct link to the Answer Garden. Students can post answers to your questions by entering their own answers or by clicking on and submitting existing answers.  All of the answers are represented in the form of a word cloud.   25 answers are visible per garden but as students submit the same answer, that word will grow bigger.  Creating an Answer Garden is SO simple.  Just type in your question or brainstorm statement and click create.

How to integrate Answer Garden into the classroom: Answer Garden is a fun way for students to brainstorm, plan, and work together.  Pose open-ended thinking questions on your classroom blog or website for students to answers.  Use Answer Garden to host a classroom poll.  Create a geography Answer Garden that gives students a place that they can describe a state or country they are learning about.  Use Answer Garden during reading as a place for students to reflect on different characters, plots, settings, and themes.  In history, give students a date range, event, or historical figure and let them add words to the Answer Garden that describe.  In the primary classroom, type in a phoneme combination and have students submit words that fit the phoneme rule.   Create an answer garden to recognize VIP students in your classroom where each child can answer with a character quality that they appreciate about that student.  The possibilities are endless!  This tool is SO easy to use, try it out in the Answer Garden below.

Where will use Answer Garden?… at AnswerGarden.ch.

Tips: The default settings on Answer Garden only allows students to submit one answer.  You can check the optional “Unlimited Answering” to give students multiple opportunities to submit answers.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Answer Garden  in your classroom.

Comments (9)

WOW there are a lot of uses for this embed-able tool… WAY beyond just the class room… However this would be an awesome way to encourage feedback in real time. I hope college professors grab on to this concept… it could add a lot of value.

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shelly S Terrell, ktenkely, Gina Hartman, Kristen Swanson, Tracy Mercier and others. Tracy Mercier said: RT @ShellTerrell: Answer Garden is a cool poll/answer collection tool turns answers into word clouds http://bit.ly/bmiYXs #edtech via @k … […]

[…] 1. Answer Garden. I stumbled across this one in a new blog that I just started subscribing to called iLearn Technology. […]

Immediate feedback is vital for learning, so this is a terrific tool.

Yes, lots of applications beyond the classroom but I love the collaboration it provides for the classroom!

Anyone have success embedding their AnswerGarden into a WordPress blog?

Hi Deb, this is a WordPress blog and I had no trouble embedding the Answer Garden above. Anyone else struggling with a WordPress embed?

Only issue with classroom use is if someone writes something inappropriate- it’s there for everyone to see until you’ve realised and deleted it.

Yes Jacqui, this is an issue when introducing any web 2.0 tool. Another reason it is SO important to teach proper use!

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