Towards an inquiry proposal…

When my colleague, Dean Shareski, first introduced me to Alan Levine’s 50+ Web 2.0 ways to tell a story, it was as an idea for the Technologie des communications 20 class I was teaching. I was new to the subject area, and many of the tools Levine listed on his Web site. Dean put me in touch with Alan, with whom my class and I were able to Skype, and who walked us through some of his recommended online story-telling tools. The students then explored as many of the resources as they wanted, and selected one to use to present a photo story. I found Levine’s list (which has now moved HERE, and has grown to over 65 tools) overwhelming, so it was powerful to have the chance to hear him summarize it.

When I look back on that now, I realize that that experience served as a valuable sneak preview of some of the tools I hope to explore over the next few months in our Web 2.0 class. It occurs to me how fortunate we are to have so many interesting resources at our disposal. As Levine states, “We are at the point now where we can do some very compelling content creation with nothing more complex than a web browser” (2011).

I chose the following tools, from the full range of categories provided, and to accomplish various goals.

SURVEY MONKEY 
One of my professional goals is to examine new tools to use towards my work as a consultant. This fall, I would like to use Survey Monkey to send out a survey, follow up on responses and analyze the data myself. I have filled out numerous surveys generated by Survey Monkey, and have perused the site. I believe that this endeavour will be a good way to learn about the program while creating a practical, relatively simple survey.

EVERNOTE
Within that same goal, I would like to study new communication tools. To that end, I would like to take a closer look at Evernote, a productivity tool with an iPad application. I have downloaded the application, but have yet to uncover its potential as a word processing, record-keeping and organizational tool.

I plan to use Evernote in meetings and when keeping notes on my iPad, rather than staying within the comfort zone of the note-taking program that came with the device. I hope to be better able to take notes, keep track of minutes and start Word documents using the application.

SCREENCASTING
Another professional goal is to discover new tools to use in my teaching. I am passionate about employing a wide variety of instructional strategies, and attempt to choose methods from all of the families of instruction in order to meet various student needs. I have always been curious about screencasting, and find it a very effective way to learn a new process or program. In his book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (2010), Will Richardson writes that screencasting, “…involves capturing what you or your students do on the computer with an audio narration to go with it” (p. 123).

I hope to introduce another Web 2.0 tool, xtranormal, to my grade 11 and 12 students through screencasting. I will use Jing to create a screencast as I use the program, and add narration to explain the steps.

XTRANORMAL
My main goal is to offer my students new 2.0 tools to use in their own learning. I try to offer students a wide variety of engaging and challenging ways in which to learn and to demonstrate their learning. Typically, they enjoy learning through technology, as it is second-nature to them, and there is always another interesting new tool to uncover. One instrument which I hope to share with them is the cartoon creator, xtranormal. I have fiddled with the site very briefly, and have seen videos created with it. It appears to be something with which the students could have a lot of fun, while presenting information.

At the end of October, my grade 11 and 12 students and I will take a tour of Radio-Canada (CBC), as part of their electronic news media unit. I wanted them to reflect on their visit, but was unsure how I wanted them to do so. I would like for them to create an xtranormal cartoon video to present their reflections in question and answer format. I believe the characters can be programmed to speak French, so this should be at once a practical and enjoyable resource for them to use.

ANIMOTO
Another resource I would like to teach the students is Animoto, a simple slide show / video creator. I have seen student videos made with the program, but have never taken the time to test it myself. I believe it can be a powerful way to present information through photos, paired with background music.
My technologie students will be working on a photography unit, whereby they must use various techniques to shoot photographs. I would like them to use Animoto to tell a story with their photos, and choose appropriate music to accompany their show.

TWITTER
I have had a Twitter account since my husband started signing up for Roughrider tweets over a year ago. I could count on one hand, however, the number of times I had paid any attention to it until last week. I used to think of Twitter as the equivalent of sharing one’s Facebook status with the world. As Will Richardson writes, however, “Following other educators on Twitter creates a ‘network at my fingertips’ phenomenon where people ask questions and get answers, link to great blog posts or resources, or share ideas for projects as they go through the day” (p. 86).

I know that Twitter is a wonderful networking tool, but I think the sheer vastness of its connectivity intimidates me. Where do I start? How do I choose whom to follow? Armed with my trusty Web 2.0 recommended Blog & Twitter list, I sat down and did some research. I elected to follow Joyce Valenza, Darren Kuropatwa, Buffy Hamilton, Joanne de Groot and Jennifer Branch. I was already following Dean Shareski, and several personal interest twits. After all, as Richardson states, “It’s that blend of the professional and the personal that makes Twitter such a cool tool on so many levels” (p. 86).

As I review my list, I feel at once enthusiastic and daunted by the task before me. I hope I have not bitten off more than I can chew. I have chosen many new tools to research, and have made a commitment to use several of them with my students. A self-proclaimed “type A” personality, I struggle with the anxiety that there will be glitches to overcome when working with these tools in the classroom. Teaching and learning through technology is great therapy for the control freak, however. One is forced to accept that nothing ever goes perfectly the first time around!

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