Monday, February 27, 2012

Wikispaces in the FL Classroom -- Part 1

I would have to say that Wikispaces has proven to be the most valuable Web 2.0 tool I use with my students.  I absolutely love its versatility.  Therefore, this post will be Part 1 in a series of posts about this tool.  I will apologize in advance for the seemingly random order of the posts.  I have a colleague coming to observe my use of social media, and this is the first thing I will be showing her, so please bear with me -- I will eventually cover other uses for Wikispaces (there are so many!)

One of the functions Wikispaces offers is a discussion feature.  I have set up a "Wiki Home Page" for each course that I teach.  When I need quick feedback from my students, I can have them post a response to a topic or question that I create on the Discussion tab.

For example, at the start of class I post the question "Qu'est-ce qu'elle prĂ©pare? (What is she preparing)?" as a new discussion thread.  I show a quick video clip, and students must post a response to the question based on what they see in the video.  

Students are logged in to their own Wikispaces accounts, so they are easily identified.  It literally takes me about two minutes to scroll through one class worth of responses, and *POOF*, informal assessment in a cultural context.

Feedback comes in the form of my response to the thread -- I restate the correct answer, and in some cases publicly acknowledge a different correct answer I hadn't thought of in advance (I love when my students teach me!)

The Wikispaces Discussion feature beats pen & paper ALL DAY LONG!

What do you think?

Monday, February 20, 2012


Popplet is a tool that I have just begun using with my students.  So far, I haven't even used it in the way it is intended, but it has worked like a dream for my students who chose to use it.

Popplet at first glance looks like a mind-mapping tool, and could definitely be used as such.  Each "popple" (basically a rectangular bubble) exists as its own self-contained unit or capsule of information, but popples  can be connected as necessary to organize related topics and/or ideas.

Popplet enables real-time collaboration, so students can work on the same popplet, adding to and expanding ideas at the same time.  Images and videos can be embedded in popples, along with text, allowing for multi-media presentation of ideas.

My initial foray into Popplet was to include it, as I did Prezi, as an option for student written product for their family projects.  My students were able to learn Popplet very intuitively, with very little guidance from me.  Each of their family members was represented by a popple, including photo and text.

Here's an example created by one of my students:

I have also included Popplet as an option for the "Things I like" assessment.

When we return from vacation, I will be exploring its collaborative capabilities, having students categorize vocabulary.  Here's the template I will give them to start:

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Arthur Alien Assembly

Ok, so admittedly this is a tech tool with a very narrow application, but it solves a problem for me that I have long been wanting to solve, so I thought it was worth mentioning.

The Arthur Alien Assembly Game allows students (or teachers) to create original alien creatures with minimal effort.  The website will then allow you to print the alien you have created, or alternatively, you can take a screenshot of your creation, and embed it into a web page, wiki page, etc. 

Why would a foreign language teacher be interested in this tool?  Body parts, numbers, and colors.  It's a concept most teachers of novice language students must teach.  I have long drawn absurd pictures of alien creatures for my students to describe to one another, but my art skills leave a lot to be desired.  If students have to ask me what body part appears on their paper, I have failed.

So here's how I use this in class:  Each student spends less than five minutes creating their alien.  Without showing their partner, they need to describe the alien (including numbers, body parts,and colors) to their partner, who must attempt to draw what they hear.  Partners then switch roles.  Drawings are compared to the actual alien creations to see how well they described/understood the description.

Here's a sample :

What do you think?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Empressr is Impressive!

I discovered last spring.  The format is similar to Powerpoint (or Keynote for the Maclovers out there), except it is more streamlined, and it is cloud-based.  It also allows for creation of audio, video and photos within itself, as well as allowing files to be imported into your library.

Is it free?  Of course!  Is a download required?  Absolutely not!

I am a MacGirl, and had been primarily using Keynote for years.  Yes, Keynote will open Powerpoint files, and yes, it allows you to export from Keynote to Powerpoint format, but it never works perfectly in either direction. 

I have long had issues with students using a version of Powerpoint that is newer than Powerpoint 2003 (which is what our school computers have) and the files are incompatible. 

Another benefit to empressr -- NO MORE FLASH DRIVES!!!  I have no particular beef with flash drives, I just always seem to lose them, which defeats their purpose. 

No more need to remember to email myself a presentation I created at school, because it's in the cloud!

Downsides?  It is definitely more bare-bones than Powerpoint or Keynote, but I acually find this to be an upside when working with middle-schoolers who often tend to over-focus on aesthetics to the detriment of content when too many options are available to them.  Also, I have been unsuccessful at embedding empressrs into wikipsaces pages, so we have to settle for a link.

My first attempt at using empressr with studetns involved having an empressr presentation as an option for their family tree project (other options:  paper poster, popplet, prezi, or glogster).  I had only one student choose to use empressr, with little or no guidance from me -- technologically speaking.  The vast majority of questions I was answering were content-related, or research-related.

Bottom line, I am impressed with empressr.

Here's an example:

What do you think?