Sunday, July 22, 2012

Wordle: Another Web 2.0 Tool

Wordle is a web-based tool that turns texts into artwork. Wordle takes texts or words you provide  and transforms them into a word "cloud" or image where greater prominence is given to words that appear more frequently. You as the "artist" can then change the font, layout, and color scheme.

Below is a Wordle I made for Lord of the Flies. I input the whole book into the text box and this was my Wordle:

Lord of the Flies in a word cloud

As you can see, the words that appear most in the novel are "Ralph," "Jack", "Piggy." However, some of the other more prevalent words are the different locations on the island, items like the fire and the conch, and then words that appear the least include things like "shelter" and "tribe." When I was first introduced to Wordle by a literacy coach in graduate school, she said often times English teachers can use Wordle as a prereading tool because more often than not, the more prevalent words show what is key or important to the text. This in, in part, true with the LOTF Wordle since the larger symbolic figures are the highlighted words.

Wordle can also be use similarly to look at the key points of speeches, poetry, or student essays. For revisions, students can upload their papers and see which words are repetative. Wordle can also be used to make descriptive blurbs about characters, class rules, or any other literary display.

My issue with Wordle is how limited it is in terms of educational value. After reading a few articles and blogs about it, it seems that Wordle is just a fun after-project when finishing a unit where students write down what they learned and then create word art. In terms of a learning tool, I think Wordle is more restrictive since it only looks for word prevalence. There is not much depth to the tool, it is not interactive, and while it is fun to make word clouds, only so many texts, when inputted, highlight really significant ideas.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Prezi: A Web 2.0 Tool

An interesting web 2.0 tool is Prezi, an online presentation tool which combines the cloud format (AKA it's accessible to anyone you wish to share it with), new technology, and old Powerpoint basics. It is accessible on any web browser that had adobe flash. Unlike Powerpoint or older presentation tools, Prezi uses one large slide, similar to a white board, which acts as the canvas to the presentation. On this large slide, smaller images, blurbs, videos, and pictures are inserted. Rather than moving from slide to slide, Prezi presentations zoom and move from one area of the canvas to another so your ideas, images, music, etc flow to share your ideas or tell your story in a natural, easy to follow manner. Starting the large canvas, audiences have a sense of your total goal, or where your presentation will lead as a whole. For example, if you were presenting on WWI, your large canvas image could be the image of a cannon and along the cannon you see a timeline of the "slides" or areas you are going to talk about concerning the war.

 Prezi is interesting because due to its online and sharing capabilities, it becomes interactive. As an audience member, not only can you move from "slide" to "slide", but you can zoom in or interact with the "slide" you are on. For example, if I posted a Prezi on essay writing and I assigned all of my students to look at it for homework, I could have a basic timeline of the components of an introduction paragraph. Then, a student could click on each component to see samples, rules of that component, or get more indepth information about that specific aspect.

Prezi could be used many ways in the classroom. Because of its zoom capabilities, students can zoom into pictures to look at finer details and open discussion to more specific elements. Prezi allows for dynamic diagrams which students could all add to on a class Prezi page. Teachers could post a topic or issue and have student create their own "slides" or branches off that topic to show what they had learned or found. Students can create a unit Prezi which they continually add to as the unit goes on, or just use it as a group or individual presentation tool. The options are limitless!

While Prezi does offer a lot of opportunities in the classroom, it is similar to any other application and takes time to learn how to work it. I created a short Prezi (below) before watching a tutorial and it took quite a while to pick everything up. However, once you learn the basics, everything else is just learning the tools to enhance the presentation. The nice thing too about Prezi is that if you sign up with your school email, you get a larger amount of space to save your presentations for free. If you sign up as an individual, you have to pay for space after a cetain point.

I'd encourage everyone to sign up and play around with it. I think Prezi will be the "new" Powerpoint in schools before we know it.

My first Prezi

Monday, July 2, 2012

Helpful Teaching Blogs

Two blogs that I found interesting and helpful were Jim Burke's blog "The English Teacher's Companion," and the blog "2 Cents Worth."

I'm a big fan of Jim Burke. He is an English teacher who has written multiple book on teaching techniques, his life as a teacher, and different ways to approach education. His blog is a continuation of those books, but along with providing great lessons and lesson ideas, Burke posts interesting questions that arise in his senior classes, assignments that make his students look at larger ideas, and work samples that his students made which integrate technology into the learning. His blog also lists his other websites, books, and similar English-focused websites that can be useful for teachers. While this is a great blog for English teachers, it has a lot of great insight into the way high schoolers think, act, and behave. There is not much focus on "21st century teaching" but he gives great insight into educational issues as an experienced teacher.

Jim Burke's Blog

"2 Cents Worth" on the other hand has great discussions of technology, 21st century learning, debates concerning education, the purpose of critical thinking and more. I like that this blog is focuses on issues and topics in education. The author discusses a lot of what we have talked about as a class already including technology and building on skillsets, what constitutes 21st century teaching, web 2.0, and similar topics. Warlick poses some interesting questions, but does not provide many "best teaching" practices with technology which could be a better combination. Nonetheless, it is an interesting and well-written blog and forces readers to really consider many of the topics we'll be discussing as a class.

2 Cents Worth