Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Kahoot

Kahoot is my newest favorite online quiz tool. I've now used it 3 times with kids (grades 3, 4, and kindergarten), and each seemed to love it equally. Kahoot advertises that its site can be used for students in school or adults in a presentation. I normally am wary about wide statements like this, but I actually agree with this one. I attended a workshop over the summer that used Kahoot, and all of the adults in the session with me were super-into this game.


Before I go on, it's worth mentioning that Kahoot offers free downloads of their logo and pictures of users in action. You can find them HERE. That's where I'll get most of the pictures for today's blog post, and you could use them if you want to share Kahoot with your colleagues.

The Basics
Create a quiz, discussion, or survey. Launch the creation to generate a pin number. Participants enter the pin number via a browser on their device, along with a nickname that will show on the screen when they play. You can quickly kick out any player before starting the game; this worked beautifully last week when one of my students wanted to be the class clown with an inappropriate nickname. :) Assign a time limit of 5-120 seconds for each question.

The creation I've used so far is the quiz feature. With the quiz, you assign a correct answer (or correct answers). Participants get points for selecting the correct answer, and more points if they answer quickly. After each question, the top 5 scores (and nicknames) are displayed as a leader board.

Obviously, Kahoot is very competitive in nature, but you can turn off the point system if you want. You also have the ability to download an Excel spreadsheet of the data at the end of the game, which makes it a fun way to sneak in some assessment. ;)

How does it work for the teacher?
Go to getkahoot.com Create a free account it you don't already have one, and sign in.

Home page

Once inside, select a quiz, discussion, or survey to create for your participants.

Quiz:
Multiple-choice, 2-4 answer questions. After everyone has answered, the correct answer (or answers) has a check mark next to it, and participants are awarded more points for getting the correct answer quickly. Answers are graphed so you can quickly see how many participants got the correct answer.


Discussion:
I'm a little confused about this. I was under the impression that participants would get to type in an answer to an open-ended question. But when I tested it, it was just a two-answer question with a correct answer -- just like the quiz questions. So I don't understand the motive to use that portion, and I'll have to update this post when I figure out more about this feature.

Survey:
Multiple-choice question that graphs the answers at the end. There are no points and no correct answers in a survey.

Other features:
  • Add images or YouTube videos (still in the beta stage) to your quiz
  • Share your Kahoot(s) with colleagues who also have a Kahoot account
  • Duplicate a Kahoot for easy creation of similar assessments
  • Toggle privacy settings
  • Share public Kahoots on social media or via e-mail
  • Control how much time students have to answer each question (from 5-120 seconds)
  • Determine if there is only one correct answer or a question or if there are multiple
  • Control the pace of the game -- only move on to the next question when YOU want to. (I love this because we can talk about the correct answer before moving on!)
How does it work for the participants?
 Students go to kahoot.it and see the flashing logo screen. When you, the teacher, launch a quiz, Kahoot generates a game pin that students must type in order to enter your quiz. Students enter the game pin and a nickname (to be displayed on the scoreboard if they have one of the top 5 scores).


Participants have to wait for you to start the quiz, so you can wait until all students have joined before beginning the quiz.


The first question displays on the screen and gives participants a couple seconds of wait time so they can read and process the question.

Then the screen changes so that the question is smaller, but still at the top of the screen. An image is in the middle -- either what you uploaded or the Kahoot logo -- and the answer choices are at the bottom. Kahoot doesn't use the regular A, B, C, D choices. Instead, they use things like a red triangle, a blue hexagon, a yellow oval, etc. Those colors and shapes appear on the participants' screens, so all they have to do is click the answer.

If you've set each question at 120 seconds but all students enter their answer in 10 seconds, you can move on without waiting. You can also move on from any question at any time, regardless of if everyone has answered or not.

Once everyone answers, the correct answer is shown on the board as well as on participants' devices.


 I love the immediate feedback!

After the quiz is over you can download the data to analyze and help improve your instruction. :)

My kids were SO motivated to play (and actually try for the correct answers) because they wanted to see their name on the top 5 leader board.

Rarely do I see ALL of my students engaged like that, but Kahoot managed to capture their attention for a 10-question quiz!


I did use Kahoot with my kindergarteners, as well, although it was a bit more challenging. 

I knew they needed a bit more physical action, so I took the shapes in Kahoot and printed an enlarged version of each on a piece of paper. I printed and laminated the shapes. My plan was to put the shapes on the floor or in a certain corner of the room, and have the students physically move their bodies to stand next to the shape that has the right answer.

I was proud of myself for that idea, but I knew there was no way I could read the question, explain it, AND have them move their body to the correct answer in 120 seconds -- the max time allowed for a question. So I created my own workaround...

I created the quiz like normal, but I only gave them two answer choices. I created each question with 30 seconds of answer time. Then I took the quiz myself and screenshotted {is that a word?} each question. I edited the questions to make them only show for 5 seconds.

Then I uploaded my screenshots to Blendspace. {You could also just put them in a PowerPoint or flipchart.} When it was time to take the quiz, I read the question from the screenshot, and students could have as much time to move as they needed. When they were all situated, I launched the question and clicked the answer that the majority of the class picked. I took the 5 second wait time was for the computer to think about which answer is correct. :) The quiz showed the correct answer, and we got the chance to discuss it. But the quiz won't go on until I click the "next" button, so then I'd pull up the next screenshot and start the process all over again.

It was a definitely more tedious than just playing the quiz the "regular" way, but I loved incorporating the physical aspect of it, and I know my kinder friends had a good time!

Have you ever used Kahoot? What pros/cons did you find? What other tech assessments do you use?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Blend Space

I've been making lessons with Blendspace for my classes this year, and I really enjoy it so far.


In a nutshell
Blendspace is a free service that allows you to pull content from various sources for a single lesson, and then store and present that lesson online.

More details
Blendspace allows you to import media from a variety of places on the web or upload your own stuff {from a cloud service, any website or embed code, from your computer, or just by typing directly onto the page} and keep it all in one space. It's set up like a grid, and you drag and drop your lesson components into the grid's boxes where you want them. You can rearrange the boxes however you'd like, which is, essentially, rearranging your lesson.

Blank lesson template

It's a great way to pull in a variety of media types for one lesson and not have to hunt down each component separately. For instance, I have one lesson where I have uploaded a YouTube video, Google images, my direct typing, a PDF from my computer, a picture from my Dropbox, another website, and a Prezi presentation. I like that Blendspace keeps it all in one place so I don't have to hunt down each component on its own when I'm teaching the lesson.

When I'm lesson planning, I literally just type the link to my Blendspace lesson {which is short and sweet} in our school-wide lesson plan book, and I am done with it. I am normally a very detailed lesson plan kinda gal, but I think just inserting the link to a Blendspace lesson is okay for my plan book because you can "play" the lesson like you would a PowerPoint {by scrolling through the slides}. If you make your Blendsspace detailed enough, it will basically just walk you -- or a sub, or admin -- step-by-step through your entire lesson.

Blendspace also gives you the ability to share your lesson via social media, embed it on another website, and/or print a pre-made QR code directly to the lesson. If you're doing a flipped classroom, I think it would be cool to show the QR code on your Promethean board at the beginning of class and just have students scan it as they walk in. They'd have direct and immediate access to the day's lesson without you really doing much of anything!

Speaking of lesson planning, if you ever have a substitute, all you'd need to do is send them the link to your Blendspace lesson. As long as they have some way to log on to the computer, that link {plus maybe my digital substitute binder ;) } would be all they need to get through the day. You can even print them a copy of the lesson so they know which slide is coming next. The printed version looks something like this:


and includes the link to your Blendspace lesson and a QR code to scan.

Blendspace allows you to make your lessons public or private, AND you can share and collaborate on them with your team. You also can create classes and assign Blendspace lessons to each class. I use this portion for sorting the lessons I use for my five different Science Lab classes so I can easily find the lesson I need, but there's another use for it, too: Blendspace allows students to have an account and hook it up to their teacher's account. From there you, the teacher, can assign lessons for the students to view, and then you can see when or if the student views it! Additionally, if you add any quizzes into the Blendspace lesson, the students can take those quizzes on their own account, and Blendspace will grade the quiz and send the results back to you. I personally haven't been able to utilize that option because my kids are too young to have online accounts {boo}, but I think it would be amazing for any teacher trying a flipped classroom.

The top toolbar doesn't give you a lot of options -- just enough to get you by -- so the website isn't overwhelming.

Blendspace saves your lessons continually as you work -- much like LiveBinder -- so there's no need to remember to hit the "save" button over and over again. In fact, there isn't a "save" button.

There are 5 templates, which just give you different ways to show the grids in your lesson. You see the first template in the picture of the grid toward the top of this post. Other templates make the boxes larger or put them into a scrapbook-like format, with some squares bigger than others.

There are only two themes: gray or colorful. The gray theme makes the top of every square gray. The colorful theme give each square a color based on what type of media is inside the square -- you do not get to choose the colors. For instance, the video below has a red-orange title, while the picture has a teal one.


Text that you type directly into your Blendspace lesson has a purple title, and links you import are blue.


You can add a title to every box, which shows up above the element when you are "playing" your lesson in the enlarged view. Other users can also add comments to the different squares in your lesson, which means that your students could add comments if they have an account.

Additionally, you have the ability to add captions to all of the boxes in your lesson grid except the "type directly into it" boxes, and those captions appear in a white space to the right of the squares when you're playing the lesson. I like the captions because I can leave myself little notes about what we're doing next -- again, just walking myself through the lesson, step-by-step -- and it looks so natural that the kids have no idea I don't know what's coming next in the lesson... haha. {Because I plan so far in advance that I don't always remember every tiny step in my lesson plans.} 

Finally, because there are some public lessons on Blendspace, that means there are plenty for you to search for and use on your own. You can make a copy of any public Blendspace so that you can edit it from your account and assign it to your students.

Have you ever used Blendspace? What do you think of it?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Notebinder

My school requires the use of science notebooks. I think it's a great tool, and I love how my students have grown since using them.

However.

I love technology, so I've been racking my brain for ways that I could implement a paperless science notebook -- at least with my 4th graders. One of the options I found is called Notebinder, and it's an iPad app.
Via
Screenshot from the app
Screenshot from the app

Features

  • Create binders, just like you would in real life {this reminds me of LiveBinders}. At this time, I cannot find a maximum number of binders you're allowed to have. 



  • Customize your binder. You can name the binder {with a couple of subtitles}, choose the color of the cover, and choose the type of background design on the pages of your binder. 
Naming a binder and adding details

Choosing the color of the binder. I color-code my days, so since my 4th graders come on Tuesday, they are my yellow group.

Choosing the background paper {these options include medium grid, red areas, and blue areas}

Choosing the background paper {these options include plain off-white, narrow-lined, and white-lined}
Choosing the background paper {these options include plain white, white legal, yellow legal, and gray narrow-lined}
  •  Add tabs {called "folders" in this app, which I find really confusing} to your binder to help you organize materials. At this point, there is a limit of 7 folders per binder.


I have to admit: I'm a little bummed about this limit because my original plan was to have a new tab for each new entry in the science notebook, which could be as many as 35 added during Science Lab with additional tabs added in the homeroom classroom. 

Now I'm having to decide if it would be best to divide the folders up by unit {there are 6-7 in each grade level} or by semester. Free free to leave your opinion in the comments. :)
  • Add text by typing or writing on the screen with a finger or stylus.
  • Much like Blogger or Evernote, add tags to pages to help with organization. At this time, you can add up to 4 tags on each page. The tags appear like those little flag Post-It notes, so you can color-code your tags, too. 

  • Add images to pages from a variety of sources.

  • Add audio and video to pages. 



Unfortunately, you have to record the audio when you're in the app; you cannot import it from anywhere else.

Screenshot of the FAQ section of the Notebinder app website

  • Speaking of importing, you can import from your mailbox, Dropbox, or Google Drive. You can import an iTunes file, a previously-created backup from the Notebinder app, a PDF, a PNG, or an image from your photo album or mailbox.



  • On the flip side, you can export your binders to the cloud for easy backup and sharing. 
If you want to view the binder on other devices or on an iPad that doesn't have the Notebinder app installed, you can choose to export as a PDF.

If you want to be able to bring the exported file back into the app {like a backup}, you can export as an .nbzip file. You'd store the backup in your Dropbox or Google Drive, but you wouldn't be able to open it in any other app besides the Notebinder app or on any other device besides the iPad.





The backup method mentioned above is also how you would share templates, binders, or pages with other Notebinder users {like your students}.

I might create a template for the way I want our science notebooks set up. For instance, I could create a folder for each semester or unit, and have the first page be one of instructions about how to work with the digital science notebook. I could save that in my Dropbox, and then export it to all students at the beginning of the year. It would also be great for students who transfer in the middle of the year; their notebook would already be ready to edit with instructions at the beginning.

  • Share content via WiFi Sharing. 


This would be wonderful for sharing, say, a pre-made graph that I need students to fill in to record data at the end of their experiment. I could also send students the experiment directions; students could add the directions to their notebook as part of the experiment write-up.

  • Timestamp pages


If you want students to turn in work, you could have them export to your Dropbox or Google Drive account. You could review the page you want to grade and time stamp it. Once a page has been time stamped, it cannot be edited again. You would save that student's binder and export it back to your cloud account. When the student imports the binder during the next class session, he/she could see the time stamp you put on it and be unable to go back and change anything on that page.

  • Save random ideas or writings in the Sketch Pad. 

Sometimes students need scratch paper to work to problems or jot down ideas. That paper may not have a place in their binder, but they still need a place to save it. The Sketch Pad comes in handy for those moments. 
  • Change the layout based on which hand is dominant. 


The default is set to "righty" since most people write with their right hand. The blank pages appear on the right side of the page in case you want to use your stylus to write or draw. {I think I read somewhere that there is also wrist protection so there are no stray marks at the bottom of every page when you write with a stylus.}

If you change it to "lefty" mode, the entire layout is flipped, so that lefties don't have to reach cross menu bars to write with a stylus.

Cons

  1. It's $4.00 USD plus tax. If you plan to use it every day for a whole year, and it replaces paper/pencils/glue and various other school supplies, it's totally worth it. But it could be a pain for teachers who are in a lower SES community. 
  2. There is no way to create an account, which means that all of your work is stored on the iPad. That becomes a problem when students start sharing iPads, which is the case in many classrooms. While Notebinder gives the option of importing and exporting notebooks {so you could probably delete all work off the app between each class and then have incoming students import their notebook from their last session}, it is not convenient at all -- especially if you're working with younger students in a time crunch.
  3. It's only available for iPad. While I don't use other tablets {so that lack of availability doesn't affect me}, I would like the option to edit on a laptop computer. 
While I don't think this app is perfect, it might be the closest thing for my idea of digital science notebooks.

Have you ever used Notebinder? What was your experience with it? If not, would you consider using it now that you know its capabilities? Do you have any other suggestions for digital notebooking at the elementary level?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Google Chrome

Let me get this out right now so I can let the judging begin: I am not a Google fan. Wipe your chin off the floor, friends, because it is totally true.

...Well, let me clarify: I think Google has some cool products -- no doubt about it. And do I use Google? Duh. {Blogger is a product of Google.} But I HATE HATE HATE how Google wants SO much of my information! I mean... sheesh. I feel like if I lived in a country where it would be appropriate to make me promise Google my first born child, a blood sample, and my SSN, they would demand it. For such a "techie" person, I am ALL ABOUT my privacy.

You hear that, Google? You're nosy. Stop asking for every bit of information about me. It's nacho business, ya hear?


Photo cred: ak37 via photopin cc
I do use Google forms for various things in my class, but after that and Blogger, that is about the extent of my Google usage. So you can imagine my reaction when the IT person on my campus insisted that I use Google Chrome. I was like...



But I went to a workshop where the presenter gave me one bit of info about Google Chrome that made me begrudgingly start to use it: There is a Google extension called "Ad Blocker Plus" that blocks all ads, everywhere, all the time.

Here's the information I received about it {and my thoughts in italics}:
  • It blocks the ads before a YouTube video. {Who cares? I crop my YouTube vids with EdPuzzle or ShareShare.tv. Neexxxxtttttt...}
  • It blocks the ads on the side of YouTube when I'm showing something educational and something NOT educational pops up on the right and distracts all the kids. {Kinda cool, but again, my kids never see those ads because I never show YouTube videos directly from YouTube. Still using Firefox, people.}
  • It blocks Pandora ads. {Ummm... what? GAME CHANGER.}
IT BLOCKS PANDORA ADS, PEOPLE!

I use Pandora to play classical or kid-friendly music during quiet, independent, working time in my class. {Our fav station is Vitamin String Quartet.} But because I use Pandora for free, they have to make their money somewhere...so they do it in the form of ads. Like, after every 4 songs.

It's way-annoying and distracting. My kids are used to me jokingly calling out, "commercial break!" when a new ad for car insurance blasts through the speaker, but it truly does throw everyone off their game, AND it takes awhile to get back the peace that was my classroom before the commercial came on.

So I downloaded Google Chrome to use for that. Even though I still hate Google for being so nosy, I have to admit that there are some cool extensions and apps available. For instance, I found two cool planetarium apps for free. You can view the constellations in the night sky, drag your mouse around to see other views in the sky, and hover over stars and constellations for descriptions.
  • Turn Out the Lights Extension: If you spontaneously show videos in your class, this is an essential app for you. It blacks out everything else on the screen except the video. It doesn't allow you to crop like SafeShare.tv does, but it does allow you to play the video full screen {something the other site doesn't let you do}.
  • Shorten Me Extension: shorten website URLs and automatically create a QR code for each one.
  • Evernote Clearly Extension: If you're on a webpage that has a lot of ad junk every where, use this extension to "clean up" the page. Also offers text-to-speech so sites can read to you!
  • Any app in the "educational" category. As far as I can figure out, apps are like bookmarks on the Google home page. I use Symbaloo for my bookmarks, but it's a cool idea if you don't already have a good bookmarking tool.
Google Chrome saves all your preferences, apps, and extensions whenever you are logged in to your Google account in Google Chrome. Then, no matter where you are or which computer you are on, you can log in to your account in Chrome and see everything just the way you like it.

What are your thoughts on Google? Do you use Google Chrome? If so, what are your favorite apps and extensions in the Google Play Store?