Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Design Something Cool with Nearpod

Participants at EduDesign Shop await proposal pitches.
About year ago I had a really amazing experience.  I was selected to participate in EduDesign Shop, a design thinking weekend organized by Jessica Artiles, a graduate student at MIT.  100 people - 25 educators, 25 policy makers, 25 designers, and 25 students - met on a Saturday morning, ready to solve a problem in education that focused on incorporating arts in STEM education, motivational structures, or retention and support for diversity in STEM fields.  It was reality show-esque:  We learned and worked all day Saturday and Sunday in teams of 4 to ideate and prototype an idea and then pitch it in a 2 minute proposal to a team of experts.  Watch my team's pitch here.  I have never had a crazier weekend.  And I loved every minute of it.

With no experience in design thinking, it was a tremendous experience for me.  Because I so enjoyed the weekend of design, I was thrilled to read the news today that the movers and shakers at Nearpod, one of my fave webtools, collaborated with the designers and thinkers at Stanford to create a high school introduction to design thinking.  The premise is very cool.  First students answer questions in order to partner with someone.  Then they tackle a PBL with a goal of creating something that will help the partner's morning get off to a better start.  The Nearpod Presentation walks the teacher and students through the process, alternately teaching some design thinking and challenging students to apply the steps to the problem at hand.  By the end of what seems like two class periods, the students should have prototyped their ideas.

The materials developed by Nearpod and Stanford are detailed enough that I could do it with little background but rich enough that I don't think I would need to supplement the project.  They supply the presentation you can use in class, a template you can alter for a different version of a task, and a teacher guide.  Take a look:

One of the things I like best is that they show how this tool can very much be used to support inquiry learning or PBLs.  At first glance Nearpod looks like it could be just a lecture enhancer.  This terrific set of tools shows that Nearpod is so much more.  I am looking forward to showcasing this presentation next month at the Educate to Innovate STEM Conference at Clarion University.

If you are a high school teacher and you use Nearpod, I recommend you check it out.  If you don't already use Nearpod, this might be a great time to take a look at this tool.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

You'll Never be Bored if You Storyboard That

In February I attended a webinar, hosted by Richard Byrne, on the terrific features of Storyboard That.  I was immediately impressed by the variety and versatility of this tool.  I couldn't wait to try it out.

The picture at the left is a storyboard I created with Storyboard That.  I started with a template and customized the headings and colors of almost everything I added.  The characters are posable and customizable too.  Many (many!) backgrounds are available.  Filters are available (black and white or sepia and so on) and many features in the background can be customized.  I like the idea of creating storyboards like this one for the families of the periodic table.  It was a lot of fun to create this board and it looks like a high quality visual.

I enjoyed Storyboard That so much that I designed an extra credit project for my students to see how they liked it too.  Over spring break, students could choose one of my templates or start from scratch and make boards that show chemistry concepts.  There were many excellent and hilarious submissions.  Here is one of my favorites, by Taylor H:

Here is a quick list of features that I think set Storyboard That apart from other tools:
  • It's so easy to use.  As my children - ages 9 and 11 - watched me make the first one, they were begging for their own accounts.  Many new tools have a steep learning curve, but this one was very simple.
  • Everything is so customizable - change the hair color, shirt color, background color, poses.  With a few clicks you can get exactly what you want. 
  • There is a great variety of characters, backgrounds, images, and photos.  The possibilities really are endless.
  •  There are a great variety of templates to start with, but you can customize all of those too.  If you want a standard three cell starter, that's available.  Add more cells, a title or description?  That's easy.  Frayer model, web, timeline - all these and many more.
  • Excellent teacher guides - you can see the example work of many other teachers with descriptions of how they use the boards in class and background information too.  
 And speaking of teacher guides, I put together 5 boards about atomic structure and a teacher guide.  These were added to the Storyboard That collection last week.  Here is an image from one of my boards about atomic number and mass number:

Storyboard That is loads of fun and a great web tool.  I almost wish there was more time left this school year so I could use it again.  Almost.  Definitely at the top of the list for next year! 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Comparing 3 Popular Presentation and Student Response Platforms

After I blogged about the new features of The Answer Pad, I received this comment on Google+.

I put together a nutshell chart comparing Nearpod, Pear Deck, and The Answer Pad because I see a lot of overlap between them.  Please don't see the YES or NO as an endorsement or lack thereof.  Sometimes a NO is a strength!  These are all great tools that I encourage teachers to try and regularly use.  I would be hard-pressed to choose any of them as the greatest.

I also just learned of a similar feedback tool called Formative.  I hope to try that one out this week or next with my students and then I will add it to the above chart.

I will put together a similar chart about Socrative and Kahoot and a new favorite, Quizizz, soon.  

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Simple Stop Motion Animation with Parapara

Earlier this week I read about Parapara Animation in a headline of Free Technology for Teachers.  I am always on the lookout for a quick and simple way to animate molecular motion, so I thought I would check it out.  Richard Byrne's post gives a great overview to the features of Parapara.  

I headed over to the Parapara site and clicked around a little.  After a few failed attempts where I figured out how things work, I was able to create a simple animation of 2 water molecules.  It looks like I should have used a different colored background, but, otherwise, I am pretty happy with my first attempt.

I love that this is a free tool and does not require any account or registration.  When you finish your animation, you get a link and a QR code.  When you click your link to see the animation, you also get the embed code and the option to like it on facebook and to tweet it.

I would use this to create animations to show particle interactions to my students.  I might also give my students a challenge to show me things.  Maybe everyone gets a different chemical reaction that they have to animate?  Or groups do different chemical processes or mechanisms that they animate and share.  The tool is easy enough to show it and create something in less than a period.  It's definitely going on my "try this with students" list for next year.