Welcome to Jennie Magiera's Technology in Education Blog:

Redefining the (digital) Classroom

Friday, April 26, 2013

Soaring with Storybird

My "I need to play with this" list is comically long and expanding everyday (as I'm sure all of yours are as well). However, recently, a resident teacher inspired me to revisit a particular entry on this list - Storybird.com. And boy oh boy--- am I glad she did.

This iPad-friendly website describes itself as "Artful Storytelling: Create, read and share visual stories." And... that's exactly what it is.

Students begin with original, professional drawings. These brightly colored illustrations draw you in from the moment you enter the webpage. The kids then can choose to create a storybook or a poem. From there, the platform puts them into a book creator with more colorful images of the same genre literally strewn around the edges of the book canvas. Kids can drag and drop new illustrations, create new pages and rearrange their story. All the while, they are entering the words that are inspired by the visuals they see.

Teachers can help manage this for their students by creating a class and adding their students (no email addresses required). They can assign stories or poem prompts to their kids or just let them create with free reign. All of the class' stories are viewable on teacher dashboard. This is all free - however there is a paid option that allows for more dynamic editing and visual options.

Something that really struck me is how many educators have chosen to use this. While there is the obvious "let the kids create amazing innovative creative stories / poems / etc inspired by great illustrations" - foreign language teachers have taken this to the next level. By having their kids do it in German. And French. And Italian. In fact, they've banded together to create a Wiki to collaborate and share these publications with the world. Awesome stuff.

And to add amazing to inspiration, families, colleagues and fans of the students' work can buy print versions of these stories for a small price. In fact, you can even turn this into a class fundraiser. Teachers can earn $5 for every order a family member places!

I've already begun to explore this tool with the students I work with in my Student Innovation Team, and have presented to a few teachers who are trying it out in their own classrooms. Please share how you are using it in yours below!

AskMe about Ask3

So I have a new favorite app... Ask3 (from TechSmith, the makers of Jing and Camtasia). Why do I love it so? Well, I'm glad you asked!

Reason #1 to love it: The app developer, a great guy named Troy Stein, created it for his son who struggled with high school math.

Reasons #2-100 to love it: It is screencasting software, collaboration tool, differentiation platform and scaffolded support system all rolled into one FREE app.

So what does it to? It is an iOS app that starts off as a simple screencasting tool. Students or teachers can draw on a virtual whiteboard, record their drawings, narration and even annotate over pictures. This part is very similar to apps like ShowMe, Educreations and Doceri. All great tools - all great ways to both create differentiated digital content for kids, and also - conversely - to unlock student metacognition.

But wait, there's more.

It also allows kids to automatically upload these screencasts so that they are instantly viewable from all iPads logged into the same class. So if Jaheim creates a screencast asking how to solve a story problem he's struggling with, or Kayla creates a screencast to show off her latest science investigation, the rest of the class can view these digital creations right away. Some other apps allow for uploading to the web for classmates to see, but the upload system on Ask3 is so smooth and seamless, I couldn't believe it was possible. I've demo'd this in an auditorium of over 400 confrence participants before - and it worked then too. Wow.

But wait, there's more.

It also gives students the ability to comment on each other's video --- from within the video timeline. So, if the child is at minute 1:42 of a peer's screencast - or the teacher's instructional video - they can pause it and add their own comment, question or suggestion. All of these comments are instantly viewable for the class and teacher to see and reply to. Thus, "Ask3". The app is named after the addage "Ask 3 before Me" where teachers encourage student collaboration by crowd sourcing support for those who are struggling. With this tool, students can literally "ask 3" through the app without even leaving their seat.

But wait, there's more.

Perhaps text isn't enough to answer a question. Perhaps a child needs to demonstrate how to solve a problem, interpret a text or analyze an diagram. They can pause the video where they want to help, comment, ask a question or solve the problem. The app then allows them to screencast over that paused image and create their own video response, taking over from where the original video left off. This video response is then available for the class to view in the timeline as well.

But wait, there's still more!

Or, there will be. Another reason I love this app - Troy (the developer) is constantly iterating and improving on it. He has an entire blog dedicated to getting feedback and sharing teachers' use of the app. He is always looking to visit classrooms, learn how to make it better and increase support for all students. Try out his app today by downloading it here (you've got nothing to lose - after all, it's free) and share your reactions with him here.

Want some more ideas on how to use this awesome app if your classroom? Check out this post by Troy - 21 ways to use Ask3!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

New Mobile Reach Episodes: Mobile Device Smack Down & Students share their favorite apps!

If you haven't already, check out the latest episodes of Mobile Reach! In the most recent episode, students take over the show and share their favorite apps.

Some apps discussed:
- Toontastic
- Keynote
- Educreations
- Schoology
- Book Creator
- Google Drive

Tune in to hear their thoughts and recommendations!

In another recent episode, Dave Freeburg and I compare and contrast different mobile devices to discuss pros and cons for different learning environments. We discuss the CCSS PARCC / SBAC technology requirements and explore how a device may or may not be a good fit for your classroom.

Some devices discussed:
- Chromebooks
- iPads
- Nooks / Kindles
- Netbooks
- Android Tablets