This is the first installment in a three-part series in which I am going to “tinker” with and review some webtools to enhance and transform your classroom experience! Please feel free to shoot me any questions about any of these tools, and I will answer them (or point you to the person who can answer them). 🙂
1. GoAnimate for Schools: This webtool allows you (and your students) to make your own video animations! It comes with high quality background templates and character choices. It also gives students the option of typing in their own dialogue (to be read by a computer voice) or record their own dialogue, making the on-screen characters like puppets. The facial expressions of the on-screen characters can also be manipulated, though the choices are pretty limited (happy, sad, angry, or crying). Teachers can use these videos to record virtual lessons for students to view at home (which may be especially helpful for students who are absent, students with special needs, or ESL students). Students can also create video projects for a wide range of topics and share them with their classmates in person or online. There is a free demo available on the site, but a paid subscription is going to cost at least $99 a year (depending on how many students are using it). It may be worth it to purchase a group package and share the subscription with the other teachers at your school–especially if you can get the school district to foot the bill! Though it is pricey, this app is definitely worth the cost!
2. Edmodo: This is a social network made exclusively for use within the classroom. The interface looks strikingly similar to Facebook and it is incredibly user friendly. The teacher acts as a facilitator and adds student users into groups that she manages, and she can even invite parents to join. (So, for organizational purposes, I could have a ninth grade group and a tenth grade group….or I could even organize by first period, second period, third period, etc.) The teacher can upload assignments or polls, and post alerts or notes that the students can read and comment on. Again, the main page looks like a Facebook news feed, with the most recent posts floating near the top of the page and older posts getting pushed to the bottom. The teacher also has the ability to add apps to Edmodo (both free apps and apps that cost a small fee are available) for the students in her group to use. It’s difficult to truly “tinker” with this site right now, since I don’t have a classroom and I can’t practice interacting with real students–but I am very excited about this app! The potential for socially constructed learning, online collaboration, and community (parent) involvement is incredible!
3. Class Dojo: I grappled with whether or not to include this webtool, because it doesn’t directly relate to literacy–it is more of a classroom management tool. However, when it comes to classroom management, I need all the help I can get! And it makes sense to utilize technology on this front to make my life a little easier. Class Dojo is a tool that I saw several third grade teachers using during my recent internship at an elementary school. My immediate thought (just from observing) was that teachers are the only ones who really engage with this app. However, after “tinkering” around on the website and watching some of the tutorials, I discovered that the students are invited to play an active role as well. One of the most interesting things they get to do is have a hand in creating an avatar to represent themselves throughout the school year (all avatars are made to look like various monsters/creatures). After the students create their avatars, the teacher is able to create seating charts, award points for positive behavior, randomize who gets to answer questions during class or take a turn being the line leader, etc. Students are able to use the site to view their behavioral status, create goals for themselves, and reflect on poor behavior. Parents can get in on Class Dojo too, receiving automated behavior reports at the end of each day (the teacher doesn’t even have to think about it!). The site also vaguely mentions that students can use the Dojo to connect with each other. Because I created a teacher account and not a student account, I’m not sure exactly what this means. It also seems like a tool that is most effective with younger students (elementary aged and possibly middle school aged); however, I have read some testimonials on the site of high school teachers using this as a motivational tool (for participation) with their high school students (they recommend ditching the juvenile avatars and allowing students to upload real profile pics instead).