Using video chats in the classroom is an excellent way to broaden the audience your students have access to. Years ago when video chats (aka video conferencing) first became available, you needed to be a tech savvy wizard to operate it and you need to keep your fingers crossed that the connection wouldn’t fail. Nowadays, video chats are easily accessible to everyone. In fact many students have programs or apps on their phones that allow them to video chat effortlessly at the push of a button or tap of a touch screen. In this week’s blog, I am going to discuss the video chat programs/apps I prefer and outline the many benefits to using these in your classroom.
There are lots of ways to video chat but I prefer the following:
- An instant messaging app that provides online text message and video message services
- Users may transmit both text and video messaging and may exchange digital documents such as images, text, and video
- Skype allows video conference calls
I prefer using Skype for video conference calls because you can see all participants on one screen. However, once you get more than four participants some individuals are not able to view others. This can make conversations difficult.
2. Google Hangouts
- A communication platform developed by Google which includes instant messaging, video chat, SMS and VOIP features
- Includes several Easter eggs to surprise users
- Google Hangouts allows for conservation between two or more users
- Allows for Livestreaming through YouTube
- On April 25, 2017 Google Hangouts will shutdown
- Hangout Meet (for video conference) and Hangout Chats (for instant messaging) will evolve
If you are using a Chrome based system in your class, then Google Hangouts is the program for you. The user interface is incredibly user friendly and easy for students to learn. One downside to the program is that only the person speaking is visible on the screen. Therefore in a group conversation the screen is constantly changing to display the speaker. However, I do find the connection for Google hangouts a lot better than the connection for Skype.
- Apple’s video and audio calling service
- A phone that uses your Wi-Fi or cellular data connection instead of traditional phone lines
- You can use it from any iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Mac, to call anyone else using any one of those devices
This is a great option if you are trying to video call another person that also has FaceTime. It is very easy to use and it has a very strong connection. The one downside to FaceTime is that it can’t be used for video conferencing.
How can you use Video Chats in the classroom?
- collaborative learning with other schools
- frequent guest speakers
- high profile guest speakers
- virtual field trips
- connecting with parents
- teacher vlogging
- playing Mystery Skype
- engage in live learning activities with experts
- international collaborative learning opportunities
There are endless ways to use video chats in your classroom. The following is a list of resources to help you get started:
Linoit is a great collaborative tool to use with students. Essentially, it is an online bulletin board that allows students to post sticky notes that may include their thoughts, photos, videos or files. You can use it for students to collaborate as a whole class or in groups. It could also be used to display one student’s work and then have other students post sticky notes to comment from peer to peer.
Linoit’s interface is quite user friendly. Once you have set up an account, you will be asked to create a canvas. You can then choose a name, a background and the level of privacy you would prefer. From there you can begin posting your sticky notes. This a great example of the type of collaboration you could use in your classroom:
Once you have begun creating a canvas you will notice in the top right corner there is an i button to click to gather information on links and embed codes. By using one of these links, you can have students gain direct access and start posting sticky notes without having to sign up for an account. It is as simple as that to get students collaborating and using technology in the classroom!
Resources for Linoit:
Linoit Tutorial – a quick reference guide with labeled screenshots
tech and teach Linoit Sticky Notes Online
50 Intergration Ideas of Linoit
Linoit for Collaborative Learning
For a number of years now, I have been using Prodigy in my class as part of my Math program. Prodigy is a free game that has students practice Ontario (or common core) math skills. Students get to role play a wizard and challenge other wizards in the game to battles using magic spells. The math learning is embedded in these battles and therefore is an excellent example of gamification and the reason why so many students enjoy playing Prodigy. As a teacher, there are many features of Prodigy that I really appreciate:
- I can choose specific tasks for students to complete that align with my units
- I can choose modified tasks for students that are on modified programs
- I can track when and how much time is spent by each student on the game
- I can track what questions were answered correctly and incorrectly
- I can access incorrect responses to find out where students are struggling and how to support them
- If I don’t assign tasks or activities, the game will default to the students learning level and adjust accordingly by providing a variety of math questions
- Students can access the game from anywhere as long as they have internet access
My students really enjoy Prodigy and they especially love when they can battle other students in the class. They are very motivated to practice and review math skills because the Prodigy game has a lot of fun features to explore and play: new worlds, decorating their homes, having pets, creating new outfits… It has become increasingly popular and has definitely put some excitement into my Math program!
The following are some resources about Prodigy
Website Review: ProdigyGame.com
Learning Math Made Fun with Prodigy
SMARTeacher’s Prodigy Math Program Review
Do you have students that are nervous about getting up in front of their peers to present? Do you have students who struggle in areas with speech? Do you want to introduce a new and fun way for students or yourself to present information? Tellagami is the answer! Tellagami is an iPad App that allows you to create and share quick animated videos using an avatar. In 3 quick steps you can complete a Tellagami video:
Step 1 – customize your character (avatar) and choose your background
Step 2 – record your voice or type a message for your character to say
Step 3 – share your video on Facebook, Twitter, via text or email
What I love most about this technology is that it is user friendly for primary students while also holding its appeal to older students or even teachers themselves. There are many ways to incorporate the use of this app in your classroom:
- how to activities
- introduce characters, famous historical figures
The following are a list of resources to help you get started
A Handful of Ideas for Using Tellagami
10 Ways to Use Tellagami Across the Content
Technology in the Classroom – Tellagami App
Hopefully this is enough to get you creating and experimenting with Tellagami. This app also offers a lot of app smashing abilities, but I will save that for a later date.
This past fall, while I was completing my Tech Specialist course, I was introduced to a really interesting program called Thinglink. I had made a promise to myself during this course that I would try to think outside the box and use as many different programs as I could to complete written assignments. I wanted to embrace my new “risk taking” ways in technology and continue to push myself beyond my comfort zone. What better way to do this, than to actually start using programs for my own assignments that I dreamed of implementing in my classroom!
Thinglink was so different than any other program I had used and this is what intrigued me and motivated me to begin using it. Thinglink is essentially an interactive image that contains “links” to a variety of different things on your given topic. Check out the Thinglink I created to outline the positive and negative aspects of hacking.
There are so many activities or assignments you could have students complete using Thinglink. Here are just a few examples you may consider:
- Use the cover of a novel to have students create a reading summary
- Use an image of a famous historical figure highlight important facts and accomplishments of the individual
- Have students use an image of themselves to create an autobiography
- Use a map of your school to create links that highlight each area of the school or teachers in each classroom
I have found a plethora of resources that highlight classroom uses of Thinglink. Take some time to peruse them and really begin to see the variety of uses for your classroom:
65 Ways to use thinglink in your classroom
10 Ways to Use Thinglink
20 Ways to Use Thinglink in Education
Ways to Use Thinglink in the Classroom
I can’t get enough of Twitter! I first started using Twitter about 5 years ago. I had attended the Reading for the Love of it conference in Toronto and I attended a session on how to incorporate more technology into my classes. The presenter (alas, her name escapes me) talked about how she used Twitter as a way to communicate with parents on a daily basis. I jumped on board right away and was eager to get back into my own class to try it out.
Classroom Twitter Account Facts and Realities
- I maintain a private account that only parents of current students are able to follow
- I tweet daily about events, activities, conversations, projects, reminders and basically anything that happens in our school and class
- I take full advantage of tweeting while on Field Trips, parents who are unable to volunteer really appreciate this
- When posting work examples, I ensure to never include a student’s name
- I refer to my students as the Wolf Pack (our school mascot is a wolf)
- I refer to individual students as Wolf Pack members and not by name
- I refer to younger students from other classes (ie: our reading buddies) as Wolf Cubs
- By spring every year, I have two students take on the responsibility of sending out a daily tweet, they are known as the Media Relations Team for the day
- By allowing students to tweet, I am able to teach about responsible digital citizenship using an authentic yet safe learning opportunity
- By tweeting daily (usually multiple times a day), I have created a pedagogical archive of my entire school year
- I find tweeting much easier and less time consuming than setting up and maintaining a class website
- Teach Hub has compiled a list of great ideas and ways to use Twitter in the classroom
As each year goes by, I have more and more parents joining up to view daily tweets. This year I am proud to say that I have over 75% participation! Since I have received a lot of positive feedback from both parents and students, Twitter will continue to be my definite go to resource for daily communication with families.
I also have a professional Twitter account that is completely separate from my classroom account. I use this account to follow edutweeters, teachers, principals and departments in my board and to stay current with the trends in education. It took me a while to sort through who I wanted to follow and to create a list of people to follow that was manageable. In fact, my Twitter use has closely followed the Seven Degrees of Connectedness that Rodd Lucier and Zoe Branigan-Pipe developed. I definitely started out as a Lurker and now depending on which professional relationship I am looking at I am in any of the stages from 4 – 7. The point is, Twitter has been excellent way for me to build a PLN and stay current. If you have been thinking about joining Twitter, my advice would be, stop thinking about and get tweeting!
Not to be cheesy, but Adobe Spark definitely sparked my interest as a teacher and the interests of my students too. Essentially, Adobe Spark offers three different options for creativity, posts, pages and videos.
Lets you create graphics like posters, announcements, and Internet memes.
- Teachers and students can create simple posters to print and post to inform others of important dates, events and special days
- Adobe Spark image search uses images from Creative Commons that can be easily embedded into posts without inadvertently infringing on copyright laws
- Students can create an image that represents `who they are` to post on their cloud account
- Create a meme style graphic to share on a class, library or school website
Page is the tool for creating simple web pages to showcase pictures, posters, videos, text, and links.
- Students create a webpage that demonstrates their knowledge rather than writing an essay
- Create an events invitation and provide a link to a Google Form
- Create a visual timeline
- Write an image based story
- Create an All About Me page to share with students as an introduction project at the beginning of the year
Video is the tool for creating videos that allow you to embedded images, record your voice and choose your own background music. You can have the music play instead of recording your voice.
- Create a flipped lesson for your class
- Create an introduction video to a new unit or project
- Students create an introduction video of themselves at the beginning of the year
- Students create an end of the year video highlighting the events of the past school year
- Students create a video of a project instead of doing a poster board or a slide deck
The bottom line is that Adobe Spark is so incredibly user friendly the possibilities are endless. My suggestion is to set up an account and play around with this tool first, then introduce it to your students. My Grade 3 students had a ton of fun with it and continuously ask when they will get to use this tool again!
Here are some fantastic resources:
16 Ways to Motivate Students in the Classroom Using Adobe Spark
Edutopia – Adobe Spark
Richard Byrne – How to Use Adobe Spark