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12 Tools for Blended Learning- The Apple

A year ago I wrote this article for The Apple, it just got published yesterday  I have a few tools I would add to this list.  The first is Wiggio, you can read more about it here.  The second is Vyew, you can read more about it here.  Since the article was written a year ago, some of the tools are no longer available or have changed a little bit.  Drop.io just got bought out by Facebook and the service has been discontinued so that is no longer an option. Read the original 12 Tools for Blended Learning article here.  If you are unfamiliar with The Apple, they are a social network platform for teachers that is connected to Monster.com.  The apple shares educational news stories, education articles on every topic, forums, collaborative areas, educational job postings, lesson plans, resources, and more. Definitely worth checking out! Kelly Tenkely | TheApple.com With H1N1 lurking in our schools and the possibility of pandemic illness, there has never been a better occasion for blended learning. Blended learning occurs when schools and classrooms mix traditional face-to-face teaching, with online instruction and interaction. Aside from the flu, there are other great reasons to create an e-learning environment for your classroom. Natural disasters, weather, school closings, long term student illness, struggling learners, English language learners, and students who are entering your classroom mid-way through the school year would all benefit from a blended learning environment. This type of e-learning brings a continuity to learning that is not otherwise possible. Additionally, a blended learning classroom prepares students for a future that is largely virtual. Students are able to go back and review lessons and learning at their own pace. Students who may lack support at home from parents or family members will have access to on demand learning. Parents will gain a better understanding of what is happening in the classroom and, as a result, will be more equipped to assist their child’s learning. Blending your classroom can save you time and energy by making your classroom more effective and efficient. Making the transition to a blended learning classroom doesn’t have to happen overnight. Post teaching and learning materials online a little at a time, systematically increasing your offerings. This makes the progression for students, teachers, and parents seamless. Begin by providing instructional materials that were used throughout the school day online. Gradually add extra options such as online collaboration, assignments, grading, and lesson materials. Should your school need to go completely virtual due to school closure, the groundwork will have been laid to make it possible. There are several free programs that help make e-Learning possible, choose the one that best meets your classroom and school needs. 1. Edu 2.0  http://edu20.org Benefits: Edu 2.0 is a complete e-Learning solution. It is completely free to use with no hidden costs or advertising. Classes can be taught public (open to the world) or private (specific to the students in your classroom). A comprehensive gradebook is provided complete with weighting, statistics, and graphs. Online quizzes can be created that include a variety of question types. Messaging is built in and has the option of email integration. Within Edu 2.0 students and teachers can create public or private blogs and wikis. Students have the ability to network with other students and teachers in your school. Each user has a personalized homepage with a to-do list where students and teachers can easily track to-do items. Since Edu 2.0 is web hosted, it can be accessed from any browser, there is no download or install required. It is easy to create and share lesson plans. Assignments are equally easy to give, track, and grade online. Online debates are hosted to spark discussion and encourage critical thinking. Threaded discussion forums have email and RSS integration. Edu 2.0 has a great privacy policy, it was clearly designed with schools in mind. An integrated calendar displays upcoming events, lessons, and assignments that are due. The site is intuitive and a relatively quick learn. The resource section of the site contains 15,000+ community contributed resources and lesson plans to use. Built in rubric builders make it easy to quickly and consistently score projects online. Attendance gets tracked and teachers can optionally award points for consistent online attendance. The built in chat feature allows for real time group discussions. Create custom news feeds for classes with the built inRSS reader. Each student can create and keep an online portfolio of their best work. The site is multi lingual and available in 10+ languages. If you have a student user who has their language set differently from yours, all messages are automatically translated through Google Translate. Transcripts of all student grades are available and pull directly from the built-in gradebook. Conduct surveys from within Edu 2.0 and collect results. Multimedia can be added to any lesson including audio, video, photos, and slide shows. The format for building lessons is very simple to use, if you use a word processor you can use Edu 2.0. Drawbacks: Edu 2.0 may be difficult for students younger than third or fourth grade to navigate independently. Younger students would require some adult assistance. 2. Hot Chalk http://hotchalk.com Benefits: Hot Chalk’s free learning management system generates daily teacher and student activities while providing a safe and secure online environment where teachers, students, and parents can interact. Hot chalk offers a grade book, online lesson creation, automatically graded quizzes, and an extensive library of digital content. Search Hot Chalks large database of pre-made lessons or create your own. Students can complete and turn in assignments online in one easy stop. Teachers can comment directly on student assignments. The digital content in Hot Chalk’s library is aligned with standardized curriculums and comes from sources such as Globetrekker, National Geographic, PBS, VEA, and more. Hot Chalk is easy to learn and use for both students and teachers. Drawbacks: Hot Chalk doesn’t contain as many built in options as some of the other e-learning solutions. This is not an all-in-one solution if you are looking for collaborative projects, blogs, wikis or more complex quizzes and tests. Hot Chalk does not advertise to students during the school hours, however the site is advertisement driven to keep it free. 3. Moodle  http://moodle.org Benefits: Moodle is an open source course management system that provides a virtual learning environment. Moodle is made up of action modules that include forms, wikis, databases, etc. that allow a teacher to build richly collaborative communities of learning around a subject matter. It can be used to deliver content to students and assess learning through assignments and quizzes. Moodle is a robust system and has nearly endless options for customization and implementation. It is comprehensive in its offering of gradebooks, collaborative tools, lesson building abilities, and assessment. Teachers have the option to fully conduct online courses, or simply augment face-to-face class time. Moodle works on all computing platforms including Mac, PC, and Linux. Moodle has extensive documentation and knowledge communities to learn from. Drawbacks: Moodle is an open source software that has to be downloaded and installed on a web server. It is not as intuitive as Edu 2.0 or Hot Chalk. Moodle would be difficult for younger students to navigate and understand. 4. Think Quest  http://think.com Benefits: Oracle’s Think Quest is an online environment where students can learn, work together, and manage an online presence in a safe environment. Teachers can assign learning projects for students to work on collaboratively. Other teachers can easily be invited to participate in the online learning projects. Each teacher and student has their own pages where they can create an online presence using text, pictures, multimedia, votes, debates, messaging, and brainstorming. These pages are simple enough for even very young students to create and contribute to, and offer a great introduction to blogging. Think Quest has a library of 7,000+ ready made projects created by teachers from around the world. Think Quest was created for students in k-12 and has no advertising. It is password protected and teacher monitored. Teachers can set up their class to be private so that students can only view other pages of students in their class or public to see what other students from around the world are doing. Think Quest promotes critical thinking, teamwork, communication, creativity, the use of technology, and self-direction. This is a nice option for elementary schools or primary students. It is browser based making it accessible to anyone with an Internet connected computer. Drawbacks: ThinkQuest is limited in its offerings as a virtual school. There are limits set on file sizes of multimedia that can be used on student pages. There is no built in gradebook and no central location for students to submit work. The above e-Learning solutions can be supplemented with additional opportunities for one-on-one interaction between teachers and students. Record the live class activities, lessons, and tutorials for on demand learning. 5. Skype- www.skype.com Benefits: Skype is an excellent way for teachers to connect with students over the Internet. Skype provides a free platform for chatting, audio or video messaging, and screen sharing. Skype sessions can be recorded and saved for future reference. A Skype session would be an excellent way to connect with students to deliver teaching, read a story together, or discuss learning. Drawbacks: Skype does require a download and students must register with a username and password to use Skype. Skype is not a closed network, this means that students could use Skype to communicate with people outside the classroom. 6. Pal Bee- www.palbee.com Benefits: Pal Bee is a free online service where you can set up meetings in real time to collaborate online. Pal Bee offers video and audio abilities and provides a virtual whiteboard where students can share ideas. Sessions can be recorded and stored online with Pal Bee. Drawbacks: Pal Bee limits meetings to 9 people at a time so you may have to split your class into sections. 7. UStream- www.ustream.com Benefits: Ustream allows you to stream video live. Create a UStream channel for your classroom and stream your lessons live. Students can tune in to view teaching and ask questions or add input via text chat within the UStream channel. You can record your live boradcast for future viewing. Drawbacks: If you don’t direct your students directly to your UStream channel, they will see feature highlight videos created by other users. These are not necessarily education friendly. 8. Wall Wisher- www.wallwisher.com Benefits: Wall Wisher is a fantastic little web application that provides a virtual bulletin board of sorts. Teachers can pose questions or ideas for students to answer or think about. Students are sent the unique wall URL and can leave virtual sticky notes answering the question. Students do not have to login to use Wall Wisher, a simple double click allows them to add any thoughts they need to the wall. The platform is very simple to use but provides the opportunity for discussion and collaboration between students. Drawbacks: Each sticky note is limited to 160 characters making in depth answers difficult on this site. 9. Screen Toaster- www.screentoaster.com Benefits: Screen Toaster is a browser based screen recording tool that allows teachers to create detailed screencast instructions in minutes. This free to use application can take a video of anything that is on your computer screen. Audio can be included (or not) for any screencast. The screencast video is given a uniqueURL that can be embedded on a webpage or blog or sent to students via email. This is a great way for teaching students how to use e-Learning tools or any online assignments. Drawbacks: This site requires a robust Internet connection for video creation. File sharing websites make it easy for your students to access large files, word documents, or pdfs. They are also an effortless way for students to turn in assignments. 10. Drop.io   http://drop.io Benefits: Drop.io makes it easy to put anything (pictures, audio, or documents) in an online environment where it can be accessed by others to collaborate and share. The documents can be accessed from the web, email, fax, or as an embedded widget. In just two clicks users are able to create personal sharing points, upload content via web, email, MMS, phone and fax. Each ‘drop’ is non-searchable and non-networked, does not require an account and can be password protected and set to expire after a period of time. This makes it very convenient for teachers and students to exchange files and documents online. Drawbacks: Although Drop.io offers a free account, some of the functionality of a premium paid account would be useful in the classroom. 11. Google Docs- http://google.com/docs Benefits: Google Docs is an online document, spreadsheet, presentation, and form creation tool. Google Docs are all stored online and can be easily shared with other Google Doc users for collaboration or to turn in an assignment. The layout of Google Docs is very intuitive and closely resembles office suites that students would be familiar with. Google Docs is a free online office suite. Drawbacks: None 12. Zoho- http://zoho.com Benefits: Zoho offers a complete range of free online productivity and collaboration applications. These include email, word processor, spreadsheets, slide shows, document management folders, wiki, note taker, online organizer, group chats, web conferencing, database, project collaboration, and a repository to share documents with other users. All Zoho applications work together seamlessly. This is an excellent alternative to software based office suites. Students and teachers can create and share documents online easily. Drawbacks: None Even if you never have a need to take your classroom or school into a completely virtual environment, blended learning will allow your students self guided learning opportunities where they can build communication and collaboration skills. These free tools will organize your classroom in new ways and provide learning that extends beyond the confines of the classroom.

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Create your own virtual classroom: Edu 2.0 and Vyew

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, collaboration, Create, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Video Tutorials, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 18-10-2010

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What it is: Tomorrow I launch my virtual classroom and honestly, I am a little nervous!  It is like the first day of school; everything is carefully planned, all the resources are ready to go, and the students are enrolled and have received their welcome packet.  But, there is still that anticipation and sense of dread that all that careful planning won’t be enough…that something unexpected will happen that will force me to think on my feet.  Really, isn’t that what teaching (and learning) ends up being every day? :)  I am using two tools to host my virtual classroom that I wanted to share here.  Even if you teach in a traditional classroom, these tools offer the ability to expand your school day and provide your students more of a hybrid learning model.

Edu 2.0 is the first tool.  I first wrote about and started using Edu 2.0 in 2007.  The tool has only gotten better with time!  Edu 2.0 is an outstanding alternative to Moodle or Blackboard as an online Learning Management System (LMS).  It is completely free to use, multilingual (it auto translates messages!), allows you to teach public or private classes, gives each student an online portfolio, includes a full gradebook, allows you to create curricula and track proficiencies, transcripts of all student grades, tracks attendance, includes forums and wikis, online quizzes, create and track to-do lists, completely web-based, mobile with a free iPhone app, tracks analytics, teach multiple sessions of the same class, upload and access over 15,000+ online resources, parent involvement, define and measure proficiencies, integration with popular web widgets, real-time chat, custom RSS feeds for your class, Calendars, private (designed with students in mind), create and share lessons, provide conditional pathways in lessons (you have to pass one assignment or class before moving onto the next), rubrics, groups, debates, messaging, public and private blogs, surveys, multimedia, and pdf integration.  That is a long list but it really doesn’t even scratch the surface of what Edu 2.0 can do.  This is your one stop shop for a LMS whether you are in need of one for a district, a school, or for your individual classroom.  It is relatively easy to learn and has fantastic tutorials, guides, and support.  The biggest challenge that I have with Edu 2.0 is navigation, not because it is difficult, but because it is so comprehensive!

Vyew is the second tool I am using for my virtual classroom.  Vyew is an online meeting room that is simple to use.  The free version is the one I am using, premium versions are well priced and offer increased options and capacity.  Vyew allows up to 10 students to participate in a room at a time.  Teachers can create and upload course content for real-time and anytime collaborative learning.  Vyew is a lot like Elluminate but doesn’t require any downloads, it runs completely inside the web browser.  This makes it a really easy virtual meeting option for students as they aren’t required to do a lot of extra prep.  The authoring area of Vyew is easy to use, it is a lot like creating a PowerPoint presentation with slides.  Vyew allows for external publishing which means that you can embed the finished presentation on your Edu 2.0 site for those who couldn’t attend the live Vyew session.  Vyew supports a HUGE amount of files including video, pdf, PowerPoint, swf, and many more.  It also allows for real-time desktop sharing which means that all of your students can see what you are doing on your computer as if you were sitting side by side!  There is a built-in screen capture tool for making step by step tutorials.  Both students and teacher have whiteboard drawing tools for on-screen collaboration.  Embedded comments let you include information on the page to be expanded.  Vyew lets you communicate with VOIP (voice over IP), webcam (all 10 can use the webcam!), free tele-conferencing with a unique phone number provided, and voice notes (voice recording embedded in on-screen sticky notes).  This is such a simple to use virtual meeting room and it’s features are among the best.

I am using both edu 2.0 and Vyew together for my virtual classroom.  I felt I needed an online meeting room where I could create meetings on the fly because this class is being held completely online.  I am working with students in third through eighth grade and teaching a 5 week digital storytelling class.  We will be working together to discover the power of story, and how to use different digital mediums to tell a great story.  I am offering this class to everyone but advertised specifically to the students I used to teach for the first virtual classroom.  I did this for a few reasons: parent requests, as a way to stay connected to my students, and I knew what technology skills they had already learned.

How to integrate Edu 2.0 and Vyew Virtual Classrooms into your classroom: Creating a hybrid classroom is an incredible gift to your students.  It offers them the ability to connect with you outside the hours of the school day, and on their own terms.  It gives students time to review content, interact with other students, and learn at their own pace.  Virtual options provide a whole new dimension to learning.  Use a virtual classroom to: extend your classroom and teaching, tutor students individually, offer courses to home school families, connect your students with other classrooms, record in-class learning for students who are absent or have a long-term illness.  There are hundreds of ways that taking your classroom online can benefit your students.  Taking your classroom online gives parents an additional way to be involved in their child’s education and goes one step better, allows them to learn along side their child.  Have a tough new math curriculum that parents are lamenting?  Offer a virtual parent university where parents can learn more about how to help their child with the new learning.  Have teachers that need professional development but can’t find the time?  Use Edu 2.0 for learning on demand.  Edu 2.0 can be utilized as a classroom online learning solution, or as a school or district wide learning management system.  Use Vyew for live meetings with your students.  Make yourself available in a Vyew room at the same time every day for additional academic help.

Tips: You can offer your virtual classes for free or charge depending on their purpose. I wouldn’t charge for a virtual classroom that was an extension to my regular classroom, but you might charge for tutoring or specialized classes.   I am charging for my class and treating it as an after school club.  Edu 2.0 allows you to charge for a class with checkout support using Paypal or credit cards.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Edu 2.0 and Vyew Virtual Classrooms in your classroom!

Comments (15)

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shelly S Terrell, ktenkely, ktenkely, Mark Barnes, Marcelle McGhee and others. Marcelle McGhee said: RT @ShellTerrell: Create your own virtual classroom: Edu 2.0 and Vyew http://bit.ly/cJXiIZ by @ktenkely #edtech […]

Good luck with this. I’m very curious to see how it goes. I’ll definitely be following your updates.

I’m in awe with your knowledge and application of tech tools. I love it that you also share your feelings on your blog. As with any new project that has taken hours, days and weeks to prepare, it’s that uneasy feeling in your stomach that something might not go as planned that seems to capture us when we take that first step forward into a new endeavor. I looked at your virtual classroom and wanted to sign up just to experience it. It’s a wonderful project and a great way for kids to learn with your online initiatives and support. I wish you the best and am looking forward to hearing about your successes.

This is awesome. I have been using EdModo with my 6th Graders since we are going through a complete school website overhaul. We used to be using SchoolFusion, which I LOVED. Now we are using Moodle and it takes a lot of getting used to. This is a great website for me to check out.

BTW, I love your site. I have been reading/lurking on it for a while, however, this is my first comment. I remember reading one time where you said you dont know why you created a blog on implementing Free Tech in the classroom since Richard Byrne does a great job it. However, I read both of your blogs and find they compliment each other very well.

I am currently working on my own blog specifically about how I am using particular Web 2.0 sites within my classroom and impressions from my students and myself.

Richard does a great job of sharing sites you COULD use in the classroom, and how you could, but he doesn’t really have too many impressions about how it is working within his classroom. You do a great job of that and I am currently working on doing the same thing (when my blog is complete).

@Mr. Dean- I have heard that about Moodle, I haven’t used it myself so I’m not sure how it compares, but I have found Edu 2.0 to be user friendly.

Thank you for the kind comment, always happy to have lurkers who jump into commenters :) All in fun, I actually started this blog a few months before Richard started his…I think he may have even emailed me to let me know he was starting a similar blog. I am always on the hunt for great tech resources and often bookmark something to write about just as I see it pop up in my Google Reader from Richard…the guy is a blog ninja :)
Be sure to share your blog when you get it going!

@Nilah- Thank you! It was a surprise to me that I would feel so nervous about using tech to teach…I guess it really isn’t the tech I am worried about but rather my ability to teach in this new way. I am excited about it! I’ll post a follow up as I get a few classes under my belt.

@chad Lehman- thanks! I am curious too 😉

Hi Kelly
Your new project is great! You have so much to offer your students and this is such a brilliant way to deliver your course. I will be looking forward to reading about how you are going. Good luck and have fun.

Thanks Penny! I am having fun with it so far…my students have been amazing, I am continually impressed with what they are capable of :)

Hi! I just came across your blog today because someone shared it on Diigo. I’ve bookmarked it already!

I was wondering if you might be able to compare Moodle with Edu2.0. I have not ever used an LMS, but I really want to start one this year. I was looking into Moodle, but my current school does not host it. So I’m starting from scratch, trying to figure out how to get it hosted (cost-effectively), and then trying to learn the logistics, too. If Edu2.0 is free, that solves that problem, but I don’t really know what features one has versus the other. Any insight, compare/contrast, you can provide would be great!

Hi Holly,
I’m glad that you found my blog! I hear that Edu 2.0 is very comparable to Moodle as far as features. I haven’t used Moodle myself, but have heard that there is a definite learning curve involved (maybe a Moodle user can speak to this). I can tell you that Edu 2.0 is incredibly easy to use and has a ton of features. The creator, Graham, is really responsive to suggestions and is constantly updating and improving Edu 2.0. Especially if cost is a factor, I would say save yourself the headache and go with Edu 2.0!

How do most teachers set up their LMS? Do you create one space for your classroom? Say you teach biology…would you just set up a biology class, or do you set up a space for 1st period, 2nd period, etc? I’m very new to LMS. Thanks.

@Excited Neuron- a lot of schools are setting up a common school LMS. For schools who aren’t doing this (like mine) teachers are creating one space for their classroom. In Edu 2.0 you can create one class and then have multiple sessions for that class (1st, 2nd, 3rd period). It works really well because the assignments can have the same base and assigned to students when it is appropriate for their session. This is how I set up my virtual class. I created one digital storytelling class and I have two sessions, one for M/W and one for T/TH.

I have used Vyew and its good. Additionally, I have also used WebEx, GoMeetNow; gotomeeting etc. and they all are good too.

[…] found this tool about integrating virtual technology in the classroom and thought it was pretty interesting. I love […]

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