Summary of Learning – The Ultimate TL;DR Guide to My Semester

Ways to interact with my final project:

  1. You can watch the videos on this screen, but right click each “Letter Link” on the Image Map and select “Open in New Tab” so the video will keep playing as you look at each letter. If you open any link on the Alphabet Image Map, it takes you to the Powerpoint so you can just scroll through the letters on there!
  2. You can ignore the video altogether and explore the Image Map at your own pace
  3. You can ignore the Image Map and only watch the video for a snapshot of my learning!

Masterpiece in the making. Click on each square to explore what I have done so far – it is interactive and uploaded in such a way that the progress will be tracked (I do not have to keep re-uploading my progress on WordPress because I have linked each slide and it uploaods automatically)!

If you cannot access the image map (I tried from my phone and it does not work) click here to see the Powerpoint by itself.

Although I love coding from scratch, for time’s sake I used Image-Map.net to help me create my image map. I still did a bit of coding when I ran into a problem (image was not showing up) and, instead of jumping ship and starting the project in another way, I stuck with it and trusty Youtube saved the day. (You can read more about that here.) Let me know what you think of it so far in comments below. I am so happy I pushed myself to be creative. Usually I favor substance over style and opt for the essay if any assignment choice is given, but I wanted to do it differently this time around. Using educational technology (Google Drive, Google Slides, Image-Map.net, and Adobe Photoshop), the “style” part of this project was easy and relatively fast to make. Imagine how long it would have taken to develop all of my photos, do an alphabet on each piece of paper, etc. back in the 1970s. Imagine how, back in 1999, I could not have linked my Powerpoint slides directly to my image map for easy access and sharing! There is no excuse not to add a bit of life into the projects you make – and, most important of all, have it help you tell the story. In this case, I used ABC photos because it pertains to my Learning Project. I used Google Slides and Image-Map.net to do a fancy presentation to show how versatile it can be as an edtech resource for the classroom. Everything I have needed to upload from my phone or computer, I have done through Google Drive. There was a purpose to my style, as much as my substance.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z ABCs of EdTech
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ONline Social ACTivism

As an opening thought, I have a question for you – why do you go online? What is it that compels you to turn that computer screen on everyday?

I believe, if you aren’t online at least 80% of the time to make a difference in someone else’s life (even if it is your own) and further your soul or your intelligence or your self-actualization… then your time is not well spent.

Blog post focus this week: Can online social activism be meaningful and worthwhile? Is is possible to have productive conversations about social justice online?

I accentuated the “on”, because I believe online is still turning us ON to activism. I accentuated the “act” in activism because, to me, activism is all about taking action. However, while some people say speaking isn’t enough, speaking out is still a form of acting – it build community, and brings awareness, educating other minds to act beyond you. Typing, speaking, retweeting – it is all acting.

WHAT DID I LEARN FROM “THE EXPERTS”?

I decided to go onto Google Scholar, a site I learned about while in Education but never actually utilized (I always stuck to UR Summons and/or in-person library services). I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it is to type in keywords and get relevant, intelligent articles to read from. You can even create a Google Scholar profile and keep a “Library” of favorite articles and citations – how cool is that for the passionate academic reader?! It is so accessible that young kids can use it and learn the importance of getting news and information from a balance of public media and academic sites. The only downside is that you have to search the journal the article came from manually to see if it is peer-reviewed (no peer-review search option on Google Scholar – seems a shame but I suppose they want all of their searches to get the most hits!) Still, it is mind boggling you can get such rich resources (still with using your critical thinking skills) with such easy access and quick efficiency.

I saved these two articles to my Google Drive, as I didn’t realize from my mobile phone that I could start a Google Scholar profile and have my own library. I read them and will summarize what I learned from each:

The Dark Side of Online Activism

This article talks about how they use online activism (videos) to recruit people to their right-wing (fascist) ideologies and it mainly had me reflecting on how – like any tools in the online world – it is all about potential for good and bad choices. Just like we can use the online world to stop war, we can use the online world to start war. This got me thinking of the extreme terrorist videos that have been shown online, of killings of innocent journalists – that is all still considered activism, or people fighting for what they believe strongly in, as well. It is so important to step back and think: Am I acting with an equitable, peaceful end in mind, and will I use peace and relatability (not friction and war) to get there? There is a huge difference between offending someone for difference of opinion, and having rights (or lives) taken away. We never want to do the latter.

Does Slacktivism Hurt Activism?

Lee and Hsieh explain, “The goal of this study is to examine whether the decision to sign or not sign an online petition (slacktivism) affects subsequent donation to charity. Specifically, under what conditions will moral balancing effects occur? And under what conditions will consistency concerns dominate one’s decisions to take up a civic action?”

They define “slacktivism” as “activities such as clicking “like” to show support for an interest group on Facebook, signing online petitions, forwarding letters or videos about an issue, and painting one’s profile green to support demographic election in Iraq” and quote an outside source that says slacktivim is still acting, but on a minuscule scale. They go on to say some people believe slacktivism is not only useless, but detrimental to social movements: “despite its potential to reach people and raise awareness at large scales, critics continue to question the efficacy of this low-cost, low risk form of activism. Critics argue that slacktivism may hurt real activism—people may feel satisfied through their slacktivism and this type of low-cost civic participation decreases other subsequent activities that could make a difference. If critics are correct, then we must re-consider the use of slacktivism.”

Reflecting on this personally, I think that everyone (these researchers included) have to be so conscious of when they use the word slacktivism. They say it like any like on Facebook is slacktivism – any online activism really – yet I think it depends scenario by scenario. Maybe that like is enough to fix the problem, and in that case it is online activism.. Maybe it does nothing, and in that case it is slacktivism.

They found in their study that signing the petition had no ill consequence overall on subsequent donation, and found that it sometimes led to higher donations. This article is definitely worth a read!

These last articles were found with a simple Google (non-scholar) search as I felt I wanted to include a more relatable, less wordy and formal perspective:

Why Social Media is Reinventing Activism

The article starts out comparing how often people “Share” to how often they really share: “If you only measure donations, social media is no champion. The national chapter of the Red Cross, for instance, has 208,500 “likes” on Facebook, more than 200,000 followers on Twitter, and a thriving blog. But according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, online donations accounted for just 3.6% of private donations made to the organization in 2009.” Keep in mind, this is almost ten years ago.

The article then goes on to introduce different activists and how social media shaped their lives as activists and building activist communities. For example Shawn Ahmed using online awareness to bring in help and donations to help with disaster relief, and Craig Kielburger believes it is the easy accessibility of the Internet that helped bring in help for his Free the Children initiative.

Last but not least, this is a cool link to read about how several times (in this decade) that online activism grew into something important.


 

THOUGHTS ON PEER BLOGS

Brittany did, however, touch on a powerful subject, called “slacktivism” in her blog. I do think this can become very real. I think that if we fall into the pattern of retweeting and absorbing information without seeking out/creating avenues for solution, it can lead to feelings of being jaded, hopeless, and eventually – apathetic to horrific situations that need to be fought against. I think it is important to:

a) really dig into the other side(s) of the argument. Don’t just develop this invisible/superficial sense of “other” because it will lead to you, yourself, becoming prejudiced and stereotypical. What does a Trump supporter actually say, do, etc. Where are they coming from – WHY are they acting the way they are?

b) you need to have a support system of people who you know are on your side. There is nothing worse than feeling alone in an ocean of social media online, when you retweet and Share and get no likes or comments. I was told that politics and religion and anything controversial are not polite topics to be had and should be personal – I think we need to make it so we CAN have those conversations and get to know who our friends really are.

These are both tasks you can accomplish online. You can find people of all persuasions with simple Google searches. It is also more important than ever, when doing social media activism, that you are informed and critical of your sources. Do the sites you are reading have academic citations, first person interviews, lots of detail and clarity? There is nothing worse than sharing an article on Facebook that had a catchy headline WITHOUT READING THE ARTICLE (and I think we are all guilty at some point of doing this – whether it be sharing it online or discussing it among friends in person). The online community can quickly become a huge game of Telephone where the truth gets stretched and becomes something else – as citizens we ALL have the responsibility of upholding the truth.


ME AND ACT-I-VISM

I wanted to share my own personal connections to social activism. I started out on Facebook and Twitter terrified to share anything slightly controversial, for fear of losing friends and respect. I still have those fears and occasionally they hold me back but I have pushed myself further into a place where I value my opinion and quest for truth and goodness more than others’ opinions of me. I find out who my true supporters are, those who will stick with me and whichever marginalized group I am fighting for. I am gay myself, and have never come out to my family, even though I came out semi-comfortably to my Education classmates last year. I agree with what Katia said in our webinar chats when she says it is up to more than the oppressed to change the situations around, but I always felt so guilty, knowing I was who I was, and yet if I was approached to help make a GSA or state my opinion on it I avoided it to not “ruffle any feathers”. I post articles speaking out against homophobia almost every week or month and am no longer worried about offending others, and I attend Pride events whenever I hear about them. I credit the online world for being part of my gateway to being more comfortable in myself and my voice to change the world.

ECMP friend Robbi expressed to our class she was afraid to offend people in the pursuit of activism, and I get the merit of that. I love people, and I hate seeing people upset, ESPECIALLY if I caused it. However I still replied to her, “If we talk about racism we will probably offend racists!” Ultimately you cannot go about life avoiding offending all people, or in the process you yourself will go crazy. It is a matter of choosing who is worth offending, and how BEST to offend them in such a way that they can see why you are upset or concerned. Ultimately, if we say we are neutral or we support something but “don’t want to get involved”, we are on the side of the oppressor – if we are neutral, we are helping others get hurt by being the bystander. This powerful and humorous quote sums up exactly what I think of standing up for what you believe in:

This being said, I think that the most effective way to change is not through showing someone how angry you are. Sarcastic humour that points out how stupid the other side is doesn’t have the hope when it comes to getting the other side to “come around” to you. Respect and honesty are key. I think the most effective way is by drawing parallels, so they can see how others hurt the way they do. When we can relate to those we disagree with, I believe that is when we see the most change. That is why education, as opposed to war (what putdowns and angry outbursts can and do turn into) is the best form of activism. That is why, even online, our words matter.

I have taken action against Saskatchewan’s recent budget cuts in several ways. My Facebook page is full of probably over 10 shares spreading awareness on the budget cuts to our rural libraries and the unfortunate consequences happening due to this…

After my job was lost due to those budget cuts, I took to Facebook sharing websites on layoffs that will be happening shortly. I have had a handful of people like my articles, but that handful of people I know I can trust to be on my side, people who provide community and support in my fight to spread awareness and make a change. I feel like my online activity was not useless, but I do think that – given the nature of the thing I am protesting – it was better to take in-person action too. I signed a petition, and took to the streets with “save SK library” signs, and we picketed in front of Brad Wall’s office and read books in (possibly?) the largest peaceful protest in SK ever.

If you look at the photo below, Gwen and I are on the left, underneath the Central Place 245 sign – among approximately 200 other people! And, of course, the Lyric Theatre in the top right corner.

I have relatives who are related to Brad Wall (typical Swift Current scenario!) and sent him a personal message on Facebook, though I am not certain he will get it. I do feel that sometimes shaming (not fighting, but pointing out how they have hurt you) is a powerful way to get a message through to someone – different than getting people fueled up, angry, and ready to retort back at you. This is what I sent:

Brad. This is _______________’s daughter. I just lost the best job I have ever had, due to budget cuts. I have proudly protested for our libraries. From family of family, I am deeply disappointed. This could have been done differently.


 

IDEAS FOR THE CLASSROOM AND CLOSING THOUGHTS

When I reflect on how social activism can be meaningful online, I think of educational platforms where you can host debates between students so they learn those life skills that are needed to navigate the real world with people of different backgrounds and opinions, and simultaneously teach and learn. I think the online world can help us more with activism in that we can have conversations with (and see news/see videos of) people from around the world, or people in very different scenarios that we would not come into daily contact with in the real world. It allows us to put ourselves into way more peoples’ shoes and develop a compassion and a passion for fighting for others’ rights. We can have students argue different stances on debates through platforms like Flipgrid (with a judge and different sides, sharing arguments and rebuttals). The Flipgrid could then be shared around Facebook or Twitter to see how many outsiders share similar comments or could add to our video! (With parent permission for young children.)

However I then think of how Donald Trump is so infamous, and so many people have spoken out against him online (AND IN PERSON – at rallies) yet it has gotten the United States nowhere. It is almost similar to Kony (which we discussed in class) where it is almost like the attention has made him happier and fueled him to be more ridiculous. Like we discussed in class, if we are going to share or discuss issues, it should always be with a solution in mind. If I can make a little analogy:

Don’t complain about the fire, go to find the bucket(s) of water.

Don’t just complain about how crazy Donald Trump is – look into petitions you can sign that will be recognized politically, look into organizations with power fighting against him and join or donate to them, and so on. That is the difference between slacktivism and activism.

How Good Of A Digital Educator Have I Been?

First of all, I want to put this question out to my colleagues and digital friends – how have I helped you this semester? Please don’t hesitate to include any ways I inspired you and/or taught you something in the comments. I think it is most powerful when you hear from your students, or pupils, how you have been helpful – more powerful than your own (ultimately, subjective) idea of how you have helped them. Is there any way, small or large, that I had an impact on you this semester? I promise that I can share back a way that you helped me! I have all of your Twitter accounts and I am not afraid to use them (learn from them), if I can’t think of a way you helped me already off the top of my head.

 


 

REFLECTION ON WHAT IT MEANS TO HELP

I know the blog prompt is specifically related to how we helped classmates, but I don’t want to discount others I have helped in the process. As educators we can’t discount the ‘little things’, or the unintended consequences – sometimes, that is what motivates and inspires us! I think I helped many people on Twitter and WordPress just by sharing teaching resources that I didn’t even create!

I reflected this semester, in our last chat on online activism, how helping doesn’t just mean “giving answers”. Specifically, I mentioned in our chat that we cannot change anyone forcibly – they need to change themselves. Helping, then, is providing tools and a safe space that inspires students to help themselves. I think I did an alright job of that this semester. I could have done better, but I also could have done worse!

 


 

WORDPRESS (BLOG) HELP

I feel like I was helpful to Britany Jefferson in a couple of ways this semester, because of her wording on her blog posts. I showed her (and everyone else in ECMP355 who looked at her blog) that another form of replying to blog posts could be by video. As she says here, “I had a classmate, Taylor Harder, who decided to film a video instead of typing a regular response to my most recent blog post. I thought that this was great. It added variety to my blogging and I was very excited to watch her video response.  As usually, it was very thoughtful and insightful!  I also think that it added a more personal element to blogging. I was able to see her and make a connection. Thanks for doing this Taylor!”

Anytime I get a thanks I feel I have done something worthwhile!

I also helped Britany reflect further on online activism and its potential for benefit, when I commented on her latest post about “slacktivism”. You can read my comments at the bottom of her blog post. I will quote her reply here:

“Hi Taylor!
Thank you for your comments. I really appreciate them. I definitely would say that you are not “slacking”. You are taking action. That is really neat to hear. Way to go! That is a perfect example of what I was talking about in my post. I really value integrity. I think that is why I ended up discussing how our actions need to line up with what we are saying. In the future this is something that I hope I can teach my students. I also appreciate your quote, “even a footstep ahead counts”. You are right, we need to take one step at a time. And even if it is small, it still counts! This quote is definitely applicable to our future classrooms. Thank you for your insights. I always look forward to them.”

 


 

I also provided a resource that Amy can stash away for the future, if a lesson opportunity arises…

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Near the beginning of class I also commented on Christina Thiel’s blogs a bit, as I also have an interest in painting:

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Shayla did an overview of my blog and its posts and shared her thoughts in a comment!

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TWITTER HELP

I also want to talk about the cycle of learning that manifested itself this semester, with Robbi and Flipgrid!

She showed me how Flipgrid works (from a student’s perspective), and I in turn helped bring attention to her Flipgrid account so people liked and retweeted both of our Tweets on Flipgrid (and Brooklynn even added her own video response to the resource!) Both of us helped grow it into something that helped many people, in and out of class, learn about a great EdTech resource. Robbi’s offer to help me experience Flipgrid (by setting up a question for me) after I initially learned about it through this infographic is likely what caused me to become passionate enough to compare Flipgrid’s customer service to WordPress’s. In this process, Becca Bennett commented on my blog post: “Thanks for sharing Taylor. I was unaware of what Flipgrid was and this post was great to read about!” so I (we – myself and Robbi) managed to help at least one peer in my class out with learning about Flipgrid.

Taking a step back from the actual process, the PRODUCT I made using Flipgrid helped people in my PLN by inspiring them on how to encourage student voice. It was good timing because I had just done a super fun project with the kids and wanted to share it. Here is my Twitter link to my video:

After doing this whole experience I even thought – hey – kids could act as the teachers and interview people to do videos for LA/social projects! So I shared that lesson idea and got a lot of appreciation for it on Twitter.

 


 

CLASS (ZOOM) REFLECTIONS

Even during chats, I felt I helped out my peers with my spontaneous ideas. I tend to type as I think, instead of after I think, and I think that is a perfect way to showcase the evolution of learning (because I will also type/say when I have made a mistake, when I need to change something, and so on). I felt very honored when Robbi told me “I like the way you think” after I had typed, “you could have all of the kids design treasure maps and get their kids to code their sprites to “visit” each stop – geography project?” She told me she likes the way I think and so I assumed that was in regards to the ideas I was throwing out about what to do with Scratch.

Robbi also told me, the next week, “you are so brave” (for speaking out against homophobia).

This has made me reflect that I naturally help those around me with my motivation to learn, to be active online and in person (even in little ways), and my endless supply of ideas. I help in the way of being a good role model.

 


 

LAST BUT NOT LEAST – GOOGLE+ AND ANY HELP WITH TECHNICAL ISSUES

I helped Kanchan with organizing her blog layout and she replied thanking me!

Check out this folder and look at all of the white rectangular screenshots labelled “Helpful_1” or 2 or 3, etc… for ways I helped out on Google+. Here is one example:

Helpful_4

 

Last but not least… the Screencast I made on how to share a Screencast!

Scratchtastic Coding Adventures!

My Masterpiece:

My Scratch Creation (Activity on World Continents)

How Did I Get There?

Feel free to check out my lengthy reflections, interspersed with screenshots.

Why Do I Love Scratch?

It is FUN and the opportunities for building are virtually ENDLESS. As a teacher there are endless opportunities for building closed or open-ended learning games and resources for students. Even better, students can build resources as a platform to share information with other students, and learn digital literacy in the process! It works WAY quicker than Powtown did on my computer, and there are infinitely more possibilities for what you can do in regards to animation to get your points across. You can work by trial and error, and share your creations with others, creating an awesomely-accessible network of learning for all.

Criticism?

To my knowledge, you cannot see the actual text coding of your Scratch projects – therefore you really are only doing half the work and seeing half of the full picture. (IF I AM WRONG PLEASE CORRECT ME!) The fact that we can’t see our text coding AFTER we make our project (and learn backwards how to design from text) is a bit upsetting because I like full transparency in my learning. I want to know how to do it ALL. I don’t just want to pull out “the right” card in the magic trick, I want to learn how to recreate the magic trick and learn how to place “the right card at the right time”. Get my analogy?

I do, however, like this format better than the An Hour of Code that Katia introduced us to. I do recognize that I may not have seen all of the site’s capabilities, but I wasn’t really impressed by the young children’s coding games. I can see how for VERY beginning students, this is a good level of activity for them to get their feet wet. However it is also confusing, because I wonder if, at that young of an age, they will not know if they are coding (building the game) or just playing part of the game. I fell in sink or swim with HTML coding (if you wanted to see something, you made it from “scratch”) and I feel like I learned (and even retained) a lot of knowledge because of it.

When I played Sprite Box I kept hopping in and out of game-mode to build-mode so often that I wasn’t entirely sure of what I was doing, either. In Scratch I at least have freedom to do what I want, whereas in the Spite Box game  I was locked into doing a special string of events. I couldn’t trial and error learn until I got what I wanted, but I feel that trial and error and independence is always the best form of learning, rather than being spoon-fed the right way to do everything.

When it comes down to it, I know me – individually – I would like a site like Code Academy which lets you build from scratch – from smaller to bigger projects. However I had loads of fun on Scratch and it at least gives you a good chunk of the idea of what coding is all about, and especially why it is so important.

Why is coding important?

We need to know coding to build any kind of program on a computer. We wouldn’t have websites, games, any kind of computational organization without coding – and we have come a long way from entering text prompts (“commands”) into MS DOS but everything we do (clicking the mouse, typing on the keyboard) has a hidden language behind it. It is just perhaps more hidden, now, than it was in the times of MS DOS. The people who know and can “speak” that hidden language of coding have an immense amount of power over those who don’t, because the digital world is – as we have said multiple times in ECMP – integrated and inseparable with our “real” world.

 

 

Can Giphy Be An Edtech Resource?

I have known of GIF files ever since my early days of using the Paint program. In recent years I learned about GIF videos and loved them but finding them was difficult and not practical for sharing anywhere anytime. My main memory of GIFs to this day is my traumatic realization they are prononced GIFs like “g”arbage and not JIFs like “g”iraffes. I still have difficulty with it (I said it wrong for SO LONG and never heard it out loud) so I usually opt towards not saying the name aloud at all for fear of making someone really confused.

Ever since our ECM355 class when we learned about the group chat service Slack I have been minorly obsessed with gifs because of how vast the selection of GIFs seems to be nowadays! The way I think of it is: if an image speaks a thousand words, then a picture in motion must speak more! Entire conversations can be held in only GIFs.

Shania Sonen’s blog post on coding had me equally as interested in the Office GIFs that traced her success. So naturally I clicked on the image link and ended up in the wonderful world of Giphy.

After being absolutely floored at its possibility for entertainment value, I took a step back and went: is there any EDUCATIONAL value?

I think so.

A quick Internet search made me realize it can be great for learning ASL or any task that requires movement. If you read the ASL link I just posted, Stephanie Weber (a coordinator at Giphy Studios) explains,

“The looping format makes it [Giphy] a perfect tool for learning through repetition.”

The first idea I brainstormed was the idea of learning to read emotions with younger students. We could inquire into different emotions and then observe and list the different actions that go with each.

For example HAPPY has a lot of people laughing, smiling, jumping and dancing. A quick glance at the page gives students so much information.

SAD has people frowning and crying and shaking.

Students could then perhaps take a gif and use it as inspiration for a skit on emotions or something like that!

Also in projects kids could be asked to use giphy to add a multimedia aspect to teach whatever they have learned in a presentation (and show their learning process and emotions through GIFs like Shania did).

Another idea I had is students making GIFs of themselves and uploading them to show their learning (with proper consent forms). GIFs may not even have the students in them but rather their project (ie. A rocket being launched).

According to Matt Vogels on this site GIFs are good for education because “They give your viewers just enough context to understand what you’re talking about, without distracting them too much or drowning them with buffering video” and he also mentions several tools to help make and share GIFs.

I did a shoutout on Facebook and got this response:

What are your thoughts? Any more ideas on how GIPHY can be an edtech resource? Also any thoughts on how to keep it safe for students? I don’t know how high the chance is of seeing nudity or violence in these GIFs.

High Five for Google Drive & its army of useful apps within!

I had a bad experience with Powtoon, so I wanted to restart with an app/tool that I could really sink my teeth into and enjoy as a teacher and online digital person overall.

I also borrowed Sarah Munro’s idea of tackling a tool in which I could review other tools within!

Why do I like Google Drive?

I like Google Drive because, with the ease of remembering ONE PASSWORD, you have an incredibly simple-to-use, yet entirely integrated and complete community to create and share information. By this I mean you can make FREE Powerpoints and Documents without worrying about paying a monthly/annual fee to Office 365. It is integrated or “connected” in that, with the ease of the “Share” button…

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… I can import info to my Drive from almost any apps I have on my phone (my Camera for example).

I love it because I can access the Drive from my mobile device, my laptop, or anyone else’s laptop. It isn’t an app where I need a specialized device to open it (looking at you, Apple products, with your iPhones and iTunes). Also, you can choose to select that the file be saved to your device offline, so when you click on Google Drive from a different device, it might be connected to the Internet but it WILL still show you your file!

One pet peeve is that Google Drive is not as developed for mobile as desktop – so for example, I cannot do “talk to text” on Documents from my mobile phone. However, I tried the “talk to text” feature on my desktop and it is amazing. It does NOT pick up recordings (I tried to convert Katia’s verbal feedback – ha) but it DOES pick up your voice crystal clear.

I was floored when I realized I could download apps from the Google Play Store, use them, and then send my final products to my Google Drive. The main one I have enjoyed is Scanbot. From your phone, you open up the App and focus your camera view onto the document you want. You even have the option of creating a multi-page document! It will then give you prompts like “Move closer” or “Perspective” (line your camera up with the angle of the document better) and when it says “Do not move” it will take a photo for you, so you do not have to click the buttons.

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You can use “Filters” which is a life saver as a teacher – look how my horribly brown photo was fixed to a pure black-and-white document, ready to be mass-photocopied!

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Example of Finished Scanbot Document

Why is Scanbot useful for teachers? Well, for starters, if you find a document you can photocopy but there is no photocopier around, you can just take a photo with your phone, and make a .pdf and print it off at home! It is also great for trying to be more environmentally conscious as a digital citizen (instead of printing off a copy that might not get used or get lost in storage, print it online and put it in an online folder to use when ready). It is also easier to share your resources with other teachers when they are online – you can just transfer with the click of an e-mail, instead of expecting them to photocopy all of your junk!

To clarify, Scanbot is not an attached app to Google Drive. When I was on Google Drive on my mobile device, Drive somehow (I cannot remember how) suggested I try Scanbot because it would work with Google Drive as far as importing/exporting goes. In short: Google Drive is just a good friend, always trying to help you out.

Why is Google Drive useful for teachers? The fact that it can be your home-base, your centre for all information to come into, is pretty exciting. It integrates so smoothly between my desktop and my phone. I feel confident enough to make use of it no matter where I am or what technology I have in front of me, because it is quick and simple. Because it is set up as an actual file folder on your computer (not JUST accessible online) you can quickly and conveniently back up your file folder to a memory stick. Here is a screenshot showing how versatile Google Drive is… Both the online folder and the computer folder are updated instantly.

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I continued to explore Google Drive from my desktop and clicked on “NEW”… and was opened up to a word of Apps. I even found good old Powtoon, so I will check it out and report back if it is easier to use through Google Drive.

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Why is MindMeister good for teaching? I settled on trying MindMeister, a mindmap app, because I thought this would be handy for using with my students. It could be used as an assessment tool to gauge prior knowledge, or summative knowledge (how much do you remember about _______). I could “Push” the document and open it for sharing, and anyone logged into devices could edit it from that link. I don’t believe the students would even have to be Google members though, I could just push it to their student e-mails. This allows for student input and activity to make a more engaging lesson.

I think one solid PLUS towards Google Drive could be the fact that you accidentally or intentionally just end up running into other Apps – like I did with Scanbot and MindMeister. It is a goldmine for finding useful tools as a teacher – go forth and explore!

Here is a beautiful mindmap I created, in minutes, showcasing a summary of why I love Google Drive:

https://mm.tt/869964397?t=NHFmxa1tOM

I wanted this to be an authentic learning experience, so I made sure that Google Drive had a hand in ALL images I uploaded. I could send it to and from a variety of apps: Camera, Scanbot, WordPress, Adobe Photoshop (to crop the Share button), and Microsoft Word (to save my desktop screenshots). All images were easily named and placed in my ECMP355 Photos file folder in Google Drive. I used Scanbot from my phone and uploaded most of my blog from my desktop. Woohoo!

I realize I did this blog post quite similarly to an old one, which you can view here. I have been excited by Google Drive for a loooong time, and it continues to amaze and deliver.

Powtoon – A Not So Great Review…

I am setting this blog up into two parts: First, I will give my ramblings (complete with links and images) of what I think of the site after looking it over. I will explain its features as well as look at them critically in regards to what is good/bad for edtech.

Second, I will look at 3 or more blog posts, and will take ideas from what others have focused on (looking at similar features, reviewing according to similar standards, and so on) and apply them to this Powtoon site. As we have talked about in class our greatest resources online are other people, and so I am counting on my classmates to not only show me a world of awesome resources, but also help me in tailoring my assignment so I can also do a good review.

It is set up in the same style as I expect the actual resource to be set up: Lots of visuals (images, videos) and very few words explaining the site. The main page is very clean (plain black and white) with lots of white space. After watching this video, I believe that Powtoon is a resource for people (educators, business people, students) who want to get a point across with sound and visuals as the main medium. It seems to be an “in” thing right now, as the live counter keeps going up about one “Powtoon” (user-created video) per second.

They start off with a hook which I think is fascinating: That 1.8 million words equates to a 1-minute video. They showed a video of a fireman spraying a hose. If you think of explaining that really in-depth through writing (the visuals, audio, meaning behind the story, etc.) it would take far longer than just showing the audience so they can experience it firsthand. It seems efficient to cover your 5 senses at once, instead of using one form of media (writing) to understand the whole picture.

However I felt uneasy when they explained that only their captivating Powtoons will make a person “sit up and listen”… I can be extremely engaged in long, written articles, and so was a bit put off by this. It is like patience isn’t valued anymore – we don’t want to take ten minutes to read, we want two minutes to hear, and it seems like in cutting down time on the medium, we actually interact less with the material at hand. Still, I can’t argue that this is a great alternative, because it is extremely important that we develop all of our ways of learning (written, aural, visual, so on) and I am stumped when it comes to teaching students visual/video skills online. I am stumped no more!

Also, I know that although I am a quick reader, I lose attention extremely quickly. However, when I am watching and listening to a video, usually at least one of my senses is tuned in (eyes or ears) and so I catch more than if I am floating my eyes over text but not actually comprehending it.

Okay, personal reflection and rambling aside… I am going to put to rest the philosophical reasoning behind using videos and focus on the functionality and user-friendliness of the interface.

At the top is a menu which directs you to creating an account and your first Powtoon. I took a different direction and clicked on 4EDU (which I assumed was “for education”). This video hints to other presentation resources being too confusing or useless, and the user review below says Prezi (a Powerpoint-Plus kind of presentation resource) is frustrating. I did not find Prezi frustrating, but I am curious to see if I get frustrated when operating this site. The thing I find most frustrating so far is how the language mimics a middle-grader (“super cool”, “a zillion more options”, “200% less frustrating”). The voice on the videos sounds overly-happy and like he is trying too hard to be “hip”. It doesn’t seem formal and professional to me, so it seems great for teaching elementary school students, but it seems strange that it is marketed to businesses as well.

powtoon

I realized I had no idea what I was doing and needed some inspiration (see the photo-question below), so I looked at a “Meet the Teacher” template that you only filled in a few things on. It didn’t seem personal enough to me. I could only fill in a couple of points of info to personalize it so the template was about me – most of it was music and animations and fluffy filler words. I then realized there were only about 8 pre-made templates I could use. There weren’t a lot of options for educational pre-done templates, which means that – if you want to use this site – you need to do most of the work.

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The “Storyboard” and Intro/Problem/Solution/Call to Action got me thinking of how these could be used either by me to show students examples of stories, or get students to create their own stories, to demonstrate the different parts of a story.

It also works for doing social studies presentations (ie. taking a controversial social issue and looking at problems, solutions and so on).

storyboard.jpg

The site seemed to go extremely slow (never experienced that with Prezi) and would glitch – I would type my first name and start my last but it would put my last name before my first name. There just seems to be so much going on with animations (so much moving data on the screen) that my computer (which has a good memory and graphics card) doesn’t like it. I found a whiteboard layout and so was extremely excited to see whiteboard animations. I came up with a quick “point” of doing my Powtoon (I would introduce myself like I would to new students for the school year).

It is also a huge money-grab: Most of the templates, layouts, etc. (every add-on option) have locks on them and you need to have an upgraded account to access them. When I look for classroom resources I just want something straightforward, free and helpful for education.

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A plus side is that, from the editing screen (after you choose your Storyboard structure) you can click Export to send your Powtoon out to several different places. It is very up to date with social media and keeping everything connected and shared.

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I gave up on using my computer and went to my phone, where I was told my device cannot enable Flash and so I need to use another device. That is another red flag for me – I don’t want to invest a lot of time and planning into an app that I cannot access by phone. To me, this is as useful as something made for iPhone (as I have an LG G4).

My final verdict here is that, even if this site has more potential for exciting graphics and animations than Prezi, that allure is lost in how much time it takes for the computer mouse to even register a click. It is too slow to be of any use in the classroom. To me, presentation templates/objects/animations should be something you can pop on and off in seconds, because it is all about experimentation. With this app you pretty well have to already know exactly what you want your template to look like, to get through it without it being excruciatingly slow. I know that the specific interface is the issue because, as soon as it takes me to the Publishing screen where I title my Powtoon etc. the speed picks up and I can go as fast as I normally do on my PC.

So here is my final product… It took me five minutes to get the woman onto the front page (the closest cartoon representation they had to me… I could only choose from about 6 female characters) and after that I gave up.


 

I looked at Emily Grace’s blog post about Animoto and realized that, without knowing it, I had done a review similar to hers. The only difference was that everything worked out for her! She could see all of the options for music and lay out her pages in a quick, organized way. She could also access the app from her mobile device. This restored my faith in finding options besides Prezi and PowerPoint that can be used by myself and my students as a way to do presentations.

When I looked at Dwight Snowshoe’s blog post about Poll Everywhere, he got me thinking about how my students could practically access this resource when he said that, for Poll Everywhere, you would need mobile devices. For this Powtoon you would only need to have basic Internet and a computer – so if we had access to tablets or a computer room, we could make Powtoons with those.