More web 2.0 in the classroom

I’ve spent a lot of time in the web 2.0 forum this week reading about and pondering new tools for teaching. Here’s a commentary on a few tools: FlipSnack, Socrative, and TimeToast.

1) FlipSnack lets you create a interactive flash digital document from pdfs, called a flipbook, that can be embedded in websites or blogs.  The makers of the tool envisioned its use for creating visually appealing, easy to maneuver online magazines, books, newspapers, theses, portfolios, bulletins, annual reports, or catalogs. One great advantage of the tool is you can take multiple pdfs and merge them into a single flipbook. I tried the free version of the tool using my twitter account as a login (love not having to create another account) and created a flipbook of all the pdf assignments for the online course I’m taking.

I admit that in this format, it was much more fun to read through the documents. You can also customize the look of your flipbook and the background. You can share your flipbook by embedding the code in a website or sending a unique url (http://snack.to/ftjlr85j) to others. You can also download it to your computer for later use (only in the premium/paid version though). Check it out:

To view this flipping book you need to have Flash Player 9 or newer installed and JavaScript enabled.

Okay so actually embedding that video was a lot more work than just using the url. That may be a downside to the tool. Also as FlipSnack mentions, in the free version, you are limited to creating e-books of 15 pages in length and you can only create 3 flipbooks.
The SnackTools blog provided a few ideas on how to use FlipSnack with grade school level students. The teacher used FlipSnack to collate students’ individual work, whether created on ipads or scanned in from hard copies, into a shareable book that both students and parents could access.  Students can create vocabulary books or book reports with it.

I can envision using it in an upgrading Chemistry classroom to combine student- or instructor-created summaries, mind maps, and notes into a collaborative learning resource. These items can be compiled throughout the year into a flipbook that students can review and that the next class could use as a study resource (or be asked to improve upon). It could also be used as the medium for a group project/report on a topic. I also liked the suggestions from Teach Amazing!’s blog on using FlipSnack to:

  •  Convert PowerPoint slides into a review flipbook
  •  Create your own e-book for a lesson unit using images, notes, selected readings, or other resources
  •  Turn PDF lesson plans into a flipbook for convenient browsing

Overall I think as an instructor you would have to decide how you would use FlipBook to engage with students and the number and size of e-books to be created before determining if upgrading to the premium version was worthwhile.

2) Socrative is a free student response system for real-time assessment. It’s a great student engagement tool as shown in studies on clicker technology. I was interested in this tool for its combination of value (who doesn’t love free teaching tools) and compatibility with mobile devices. At our college, there are only a few sets of “clickers” for classroom use and we haven’t reached the stage of selling students individual clickers yet. Being about to do informal or formal assessments through students’ cell phones or laptops would be a huge advantage of using technology already on hand. The only downside is you have to have consistent internet access so if your users are relying on the college’s wireless network…  it may not always work at your particular institution. Watch a demo of socrative in action:

Socrative offers the option of creating multiple choice, true/false, and short answer questions or saved quizzes with a set of questions that will be graded and recorded in excel form.  Using individual questions could serve as an informal pre-assessment or middle assessment activity. Alternately the quiz feature could be used for a formal pre- or post-assessment activity. Socrative also includes a wonderful feature for post-assessment called the “Exit Ticket”: students are asked to respond to the questions “Today I learned…..” and “Tomorrow I need to…”  Since we know that there is a growing trend in gamefication of education, there is also a game feature called “space race” where virtual teams work together to answer prompts or questions to get their rocket ship the farthest.

A common way to use clicker technology for engagement is to motivate discussion, whether in pairs, groups, or as a class. You could use Socrative to ask individuals to answer a multiple choice or T/F question, then project the responses as a discussion prompt. Have students turn to their neighbour and explain their response and then have them vote a second time.  Then explain the correct answer to ensure everyone is one the same page. This blog reviewed an instructor’s use of Socrative in his classroom – lots of good ideas on engagement activities and different ways to use its features.

3)  TimeToast is a great visualization tool for creating timelines to aid in learning history.  I immediately thought how useful it would be in chemistry for lessons about the history of the atom and how our understanding developed over time. Students could also select an important discovery in chemistry and chronologically arrange all the preceding knowledge or research that led up to that one eureka moment. Since all the timelines created are shared publicly, already prepared timelines could be ready for you to use as an instructor resource. The timeline can be viewed as either a timeline with event along it (each event includes a title, photo, and description) or as a list of events. This review of TimeToast was helpful in summing up how it works and what it can and cannot do (or just watch the video  below). One downside to the tool is that you cannot embed videos in the timeline. An another drawback may be that it works through a single email account so collaborative work may be harder to arrange with this tool.

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