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Lessons learned from Stanford, Google, IDEO and Pixar

This weekend I spent some time with incredible innovators at Stanford University to talk about innovation in education.  All walks of life gathered at d.school to discuss problems in education and to propose solutions. My biggest takeaway: Education needs more design thinking and collaborative concepting at all levels. Throughout the day we shared stories, created concept maps, brainstormed collaboratively, identified problems in education and prototyped possible solutions.  I love that we didn’t just give answers. We prototyped possible solutions in the prototype lab where we had access to all kinds of great building materials.  We came up with some pretty impressive solutions.  What if schools operated more like this?  If teachers and students worked together as designers.  This is the drive behind Anastasis Academy’s morning inquiry block.  We look at big questions and work on interdisciplinary projects that incorporate a range of subjects and disciplines of learning. “What if the process of education were as intentionally crafted as the products of education (i.e., we always think about the book report or the final project, but not the path to get there).” (Fast Company) Schools have a lot to learn from Google, IDEO and Pixar.  These are companies that have created a culture of creativity, play and collaboration.  IDEO mirrors this culture in their physical space.  The space lends itself to creativity and new ideas because the space isn’t overly prescriptive.  Stanford’s d.school was very similar.  Tracks run all over the building where walls of whiteboards can be clipped in and moved around easily.  A writing space wherever and whenever you need one.  Brilliant.  All of the furniture is on wheels, it is easily moved and rearranged based on current needs.  Large wooden Lego-type blocks can be easily moved, arranged and built with for any situation. I love the philosophies of Pixar, the layout is designed to foster “forced collisions of people”.  Students with different backgrounds, passions and understandings collided in new understandings.  Would forced collisions of people encourage a whole new population of da Vinci thinking? At Google play is not only encouraged, it is deeply engrained in the culture.  Spaces are flexible and constantly changing and being built.  This is was the case in Stanford’s d.school and I have to say, the instant ability to edit our workspace impacted our thinking.  “Imagine what might happen if students had this same power to edit and make their own spaces within the school environment.” (Fast Company) I highly recommend the following article from Fast Company “What Schools Can Learn From Google, IDEO, and Pixar.” The article mentions High Tech High, a collection of charter schools in Southern California led by Larry Rosenstock.  Please take the 14 minutes to watch this great video about High Tech High!  Innovation is education is emerging in pockets all over the world. Anastasis Academy is a part of this innovation!  

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12 Tools for Blended Learning- The Apple

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Blogs, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Grade Level, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Virtual Field Trips, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 05-11-2010

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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.

Comments (8)

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shelly S Terrell, Chris Atkinson, Rurik-Rory Nackerud, Martin Sketchley, Baiba and others. Baiba said: RT @ShellTerrell: 12 Tools for Blended Learning- The Apple http://bit.ly/aXwCid by @ktenkely #edtech […]

drop.io is bought by facebook. their service will be terminated :(
see: http://blog.drop.io/2010/10/29/an-important-update-on-the-future-of-drop-io/

The problem I have with google docs is that students need an igoogle account and they can’t get one if they’re 13 or younger. I’ve tried to “trick” google with the gmail+ method but it doesn’t work – Google seems to know if it’s a real gmail account (it seems to see what’s after the +).
Any suggestions?

@Rachelle- I have used the gmail+ method in the past. You may want to check directly with Google to find out if they have a work around. My first thought is to create one class account that all of the students work from. This way they could all add documents (I just have them add their class number before the document title). It will really depend on how you are wanting to use it. Anyone else have a recommendation for Rachelle?

Thanks for including the link @kriskras as I noted at the beginning of my post…when publishing tech articles time matters! I wrote this article a year ago for the Apple when Drop.io was still going strong!

For the past year I’ve been getting sick a lot, and the idea of blended learning seem just like what I need. Why couldn’t I have discovered this sooner! Thank you for the tips about the programs. I’m really hoping to try this next semester.

Next year!

I’ve been using https://cloud.c3softworks.com which allows me to make games my students can play with teams in the classroom. I can also use the same games and send out links they can play by themselves.

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