More Web 2.0 tools for the classroom

I’ve been exposed to an amazing variety of technology tools that could be strategically employed to enhance teaching and/or learning in my PIDP3240 course. I wanted to highlight a few more that I am especially excited about using: BrainShark, Vialogues, SpicyNodes, and free stock image sites.

1. BrainShark. BrainShark is a free “cloud-based software for creating, sharing and tracking online and mobile video presentations” (BrainShark – What Is It). It’s a comparable alternate to Screencast-o-Matic that allows you to create audio recordings to accompany PowerPoint and then make it available on the web for on-demand viewing. You can incorporate PowerPoint, photos, or video clips into your recorded presentation. To record the audio track for your presentation, you can either use a microphone or telephone. Documents (Word, PDF, excel) and urls can be attached to the presentation as well. It does require creating an account, unlike Screencast-o-Matic, but one advantage may be the compatible mobile device app, SlideShark, for apple devices that allows for creation and viewing of BrainShark presentations. BrainShark presentations can also be added to your LinkedIn profile.

2. Vialogues. Vialogues = Video + dialogue. This is a really interesting discussion tool.
It’s a free, but requires creating an account. I initially thought it was comparable to embedding a video in a forum post in a Learning Management System where students can post their responses, but the key advantage of Vialogues is the ability to add commentary, questions, or even surveys at specific points in the video! These are then displayed in a chronological commentary stream to the right of the video with time stamps. You can also hover over a specific comment, indicated by a vertical red bar on the timeline, click on it and be taken to that exact moment in the video

Ways to use vialogues in the classroom:
1) Have students watch a lecture or short video and then insert their own questions or comments as the video proceeds. This could be an individual experience where students create guiding questions for classmates (as a content expert) or a collaborative experience where a group of students create questions and notes and respond to others’ posts.
2) Have students share projects on vialogues and then provide feedback to classmates.
3) Use it as a teaching resource – find videos and the commentary provided by the creator and use it for inspiration to create your own vialogue.

3. SpicyNodes. SpicyNodes is one of the many online mindmapping/visualization tools like mindmaple. It uses radial mapping of information and provides an interactive experience. I found the visualization very intuitive to move around. The mindmap rearranges itself when you click on a node so that you can still see where you came from, but the information you are focusing on is automatically adjusted to become larger/easier to read. You can embed text, video, music or images into the mindmap. There’s also a home button to take you back to the centre of the mindmap at any time. You can use the branded version of SpicyNodes for free (still requires creating an account) and embed your mindmap within a website or send a url to it. This is a great tool for student work or for creating a visualization of a series of related concepts in a lesson that could be distributed to students as notes.

If you go to their homepage, try starting by clicking on “Try clicking here” to get some brief info on how to it works. Or check out this sample mindmap of calendars throughout the ages:

4. Free stock images. Take note

Having these sites is handy if you need photos or clipart to incorporate into PowerPoint, handouts, or any teaching material as well as being able to provide resources for your students to use in their own work without violating copyright law. I have chosen sites that provide free licenses without requiring attribution or creation of an account.

  • Photorack – It’s not fancy looking like many of the other image sites nor is there a comprehensive search function. You select a main category of photos, then a subcategory, and then scroll through the images to find what you want. What I like about this site is it does not require you to sign up, all photos can be used without restriction, and while they would like that you mention their site occasionally, it’s not required.
  • morgueFile is another source of free photo images (~10,000 or so). What I appreciate most about this site is the easy license use – no attribution is required unlike PhotoPin or Openphoto.  While the search feature is decent, they seem to have disabled the filter categories that made their search engine shine in this review of the top 12 free image sites (click the link for more sites not listed above!) This site excels at animal, people and landscape photos.

Here’s a few great summary sites of web 2.0 tools if you want a brief overview of a selection of the panacea:
Grand Canyon University technology & teaching page (provides a demonstration video for each tool)

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