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According to Wikipedia, an Internet meme is "used to describe a concept that spreads via the Internet." Essentially, they are those images that "go viral" and show up on Facebook and Twitter, or in e-mails, with various accompanying text. Depending on your sense of humor, these memes might evoke a chuckle or two, or they might just irritate you. (I tend towards the latter.) Like me, you might be tired of looking at awkward penguins, laughing cats, and epic fails. Sure, you can always roll your eyes at the phenomenon. OR you can create your own to suit your classroom needs. This week, I used Meme Generator to create some friendly reminders to hang up around my classroom. After all, if a screaming Spartan visually assaults my eyeballs, then maybe it will be flashy enough to catch my students' attentions, too.
Recently, I discovered a vocabulary website called Membean. The site offers personalized vocabulary lessons to help with preparation for the SAT, the GRE, or general vocabulary improvement for both individuals and schools. The vocabulary lessons are visually stunning and very interactive; however, they are not free. Personally, I know that my school simply cannot afford to pay for tailored vocabulary development for each student, but Membean's format has given me the idea of setting up a vocabulary wiki and having my students create their own interactive vocabulary pages, including definitions, pictures, videos, sentences with context clues, etc. If your school has money to spend, by all means, it appears to be well worth the money, but I know for some of us, spending even a penny more isn't an option.
With that said, let me tell you what Membean has for free. (Doesn't the word "free" have a beautiful ring to it?) Membean has a wonderful collection of podcasts featuring different root words. (Thanks, Membean!) I plan to use a study in roots, prefixes, and suffixes as an integral part of my vocabulary curriculum this upcoming school year. In fact, I plan to use Membean's podcasts as a bellringer activity in my classroom by having students make note cards to record the meaning of each root word. I'll have students record the root, its meaning, and definitions of multiple words based on that root; they will also draw an illustration to accompany the root word. Students will be given an online pretest to assess prior knowledge, and will be retested throughout the school year to measure to assess growth. Below, I am sharing the template that my students will use to create the note cards. As always, feel free to copy/print/distribute.
A few weeks ago, I saw a post on an educational blog (probably Free Tech 4 Teachers) about StoryBricks, an online program that allows users to create their own MMOs. If you are a gamer--or, in my case, married to one--then you already know what an MMO is. If not, then allow me to explain: an MMO is a Massive Multiplayer Online game. Basically, it is a game played online by multiple players at once; the players' characters are able to interact with one another to make the story really come to life. Think World of Warcraft or Guild Wars. Now, I might not be the die-hard gamer that several of my friends and family members are (yes, even my mom is a gamer) but this definitely caught my attention!
With the buzz around gaming in education, and the push for increased computer science (STEM) in schools, I was curious to check out this new option. One of the most intriguing aspects of StoryBricks is that users don't simply play the game; they build the game using basic concept of computer programming. Once I signed in and began playing around, the interface really reminded me of Scratch. Scratch is a "computer programming language learning environment" created by MIT, which has been used in schools to introduce youngsters to the concepts behind computer programming. StoryBricks, on the other hand, seems to be aimed at an older demographic. I predict that this will be used mostly in middle school and high school classrooms. As many students in this age group are already playing MMOs, introducing the complexities of computer programming through this format is sure to spark some students' interests.
I'm not a computer science teacher, so my first thought was "That's great, but how can I use this in my English classroom?" The first idea that came to mind was using StoryBricks as a digital storytelling tool; I could have students create their own interactive myths or legends. I also notice that the commands that are used to build the stories really enforce logical thinking (if-then statements, for example). I also thought about the revision process that students would undergo in order to get their stories to turn out well. In short, there are many reasons why StoryBrick would make a good edition to the English classroom. If nothing else, pose it as a challenge to the uninterested student who hates homework but loves computers; have him* work on a story during his "free time" and see where it takes him.
Below, I have embedded a brief screenshot of myself experimenting with StoryBricks. It's best viewed if you imagine some incredibly suspenseful, adventurous music as you watch...
*or her, because computer superstars come in all shapes and sizes
For this upcoming school year, I intend to make the jump from using Microsoft Word to using Google Docs. Why? Because students can start their work at school and finish at home (or vice versa). Because I don't have to worry about compatibility issues with students owning different versions of software. Because it saves automatically, so students can't blame the computers for losing their work. Because it's free, and I hope students will continue to use it long after my class. And because it's paperless, so I don't have to worry about low toner, paper jams, or any other of the countless problems that become part of my computer lab existence.
I'm preparing a handout for my students to keep in their writing binders, showing them exactly what expect when it comes to formatting their papers (header, footer, margins, etc.) Why? Because if they have a tool to help them through the technical aspects, then I can focus on helping them with their writing.
Please feel free to download/print/share the document below. A screencast will be coming soon...
After discovering ImageSpike yesterday, I started wondering how its use could be expanded across disciplines: social studies, science, math, etc. It dawned on me that IamgeSpike would be an exceptional tool for language studies. namely, it could be used to construct maps, charts, or other visuals that incorporate vocabulary study. I imagine having Spanish students work with technology to create a "spiked" image, labeling items in an image in Spanish (see image below). These images could then become student study tools for review and practice. The same concept could be applied to anything that can be labelled: the names of states, the parts of a cell... you could even create an image of math problems and then "spike" in the answers. ImageSpike is quickly becoming one of my favorite tools for the upcoming school year. Also, I failed to mention in my last post that ImageSpike gives you embed code to post on your own website/blog/e-portfolio.
I recently discovered ImageSpike after reading about it on the Free Technology for Teachers blog, and I can see endless possibilities with this tool! This would be a wonderful way to make my images more interactive. According to the website, ImageSpike allows users to "mark up" photos with "interactive hotspots." This sounds confusing at first, but it's easy to understand the concept once you see a "spiked" image. It's also very easy to create one.
To spike an image, first upload a picture from your PC or supply the URL address. Next, click on areas of the picture to create "hot spots." Hot spots are dots that appear on your image. When you hover over the dot, a link appears. You can link these hot spots to videos, web pages, images, etc. Again, just supply the URL for the content you want to link to the hot spot. It's multimedia on steroids.
Below is my first ever "spiked" image--a photo of Bernini's The Rape of Proserpina. This shows how I would use ImageSpike in my own classroom: to link resources to an image, keeping my information organized and visually stimulating. I could also see having students create images loaded with their own hot spots; this could take place of a standard poster board presentation, or could be used as part of a student presentation. I could also have students visit a "spiked" image (similar to the image below) and then take notes or answer questions related to the media that students are directed to. This would also work great with maps; I already have plans to create a spiked image of the journey of Odysseus to use this upcoming school year. How will you use ImageSpike?
It's May 12, and I'm in the final stretch; only three more work days until summer break. So, what I would like to do is ask for requests from blog visitors. What should I research and report about next? Is anyone in need of a good print-ready tutorial? What would you like for me to look into next?
Please leave suggests as a comment to this blog post, and I will choose some suggestions for upcoming topics.
Happy summer, and--if you are also a teacher--enjoy your well-deserved break!
I'm very excited to announce that I have been selected as a winner in Kaplan's First Year Teacher eBook contest. Among the submissions entered, mine was chosen as one of the top three, making me the recipient of a (guaranteed-not-to-go-to-waste) $50 Amazon gift card.
The press release is located HERE:
And, the book will be available for FREE beginning Monday, May 14th on Amazon. It will also be free during the month of May on the Apple iTunes store, in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week.
It's no secret that I absolutely LOVE Screenr. And why not? The more I think about it, the more uses I come up with for Screenr in the classroom. One of my favorite uses is to create technology tutorials for my students to watch in the computer lab, eliminating some of the time I usually spend answering questions about page margins and inserting headers or footers. But, I've also begun to think of Screenr as a great tool for using with the IPEVO p2v document camera (which doesn't record on its own). Recently, I "played" with Screenr to see how well it would work for creating stop motion animation videos. You can see the results embedded below and--while my first attempt is far from perfection--it definitely shows potential. To create this video, I used clipart and a background from Smart Notebook software. I think that, given more time and a little more practice, this could become a great alternative to more expensive stop animation software programs. What do you think? Please feel free to comment on how you could use Screenr in the classroom.
For those of you who may be interested in National Board Certification and becoming a Master Teacher, I have recently applied for certification and will be going through the process during the 2012-2013 school year. I have set up a new section on my website devoted exclusively to tracking my journey. You can read all about it HERE. Feel free to send me a message if you would like to share your own NBPTS experience.
Jessica Pilgreen is a high school English teacher, a Piasa Bluffs Writing Project fellow, and a technology enthusiast. The main purpose of this blog is to help her keep track of all of the fabulous tools out there that she has encountered, but if she can help a few others along the way, that's good, too.