Google Search Stories for classroom use

I worked with my school’s Humanities faculty this afternoon showing them some Web tools that they may like to use in their classes. They’ve had a lot of success with Glogster, and now feel like they need to look into different tools to help with demonstrating students’ understanding of the subject areas they are teaching. I’ve created a page on the wiki I use as a resource base and I shared that with them. We explored quite a few things they’d not seen such as Capzles Voicethread, timetoast, and Google Search Stories.

I’d never made a Google Search Story until this afternoon, and I found the experience incredibly easy, but enlightening too. While it’s no doubt a bit of marketing for the Google juggernaut, it could very well have a place in classrooms. The search story above deals with the recent crisis in Japan. All I had to do was go to the search story creator, type in the search terms I thought were applicable and select what kind of search I wanted for each search inquiry eg: web search, maps, news etc. It’s a way of highlighting that there are different kinds of searches you can do on Google- you aren’t limited to the home page search box. There’s the first lesson for our Google addicted students!

It got me, and the others in the group this afternoon, thinking about how it could be used in classrooms. Our International Studies teacher could see immediate application for current world events, as either something she created to hook the students in at the start of a lesson, or something they created to demonstrate their understanding of the timeline or complexity of an issue. We thought about books they’d read, and how they could tell a character’s journey via a search story. They are certainly fun to create and can be done easily within a lesson, even within ten minutes really.

The difficulty comes with uploading them to YouTube. I have an account so the process was very easy for me. All I needed to so was sign into my account from the search story creator and the video was uploaded for me. It was a very quick process. Both of my children have YouTube accounts, so if they were sitting in your classrooms you’d have no worries with them, but it’s not going to be the norm for the majority of our students. I also think we’d have a fair few parents who probably don’t want their children having an account. We were trying to work out how we’d overcome this and be able to use this in our classrooms. We thought we could create a school account on YouTube, and when it came to upload time, the teacher could input the school email and password for the account. We weren’t keen on sharing this with the students, just in case someone thought it ‘funny’ to upload something inappropriate under the school’s name. I’m not sure how we’ll proceed just yet, but I do think it’s worth following through with. If anyone reading this has any other ideas, please leave a comment and enlighten us!

It’s worth taking a look at the search stories site and looking at some of the videos there. Some are very clever, even touching, and all in 30 seconds or so. Take a look below and you’ll see what I mean.

The quiet revolution

Here’s Sir Ken Robinson delivering the TED talk that occurred in February, but has just been released on the TED site. Please watch it, not just once, but two or three times, and internalise the message. Ken asks for a revolution in our schools. A revolution that allows our students to explore what they are passionate about. A revolution that will require a rethink of curriculum structures that bind us to an industrial model of teaching. A revolution that needs teachers who understand new technologies and how we can use these tools to assist our students in pursuing their passions. Sounds like the ethos underlying Students 2.0 really.

In my own workplace, I’m trying to do my bit to force the revolution. I feel like I’m making a dent in recent times. In the early days, I was evangelistic in my mission, and it didn’t do me any favours. Now, I’m quieter in my intent, and I’ve probably been assisted not so much by my own efforts, but more from the shift in society. The fact that people accept Twitter as an acceptable medium now, and more people are aware that options exist with online applications like Google Docs, makes it easier for me to be heard and sought out.

We are currently working on a thematic study of Romance and Relationships in our Year 9 study of English. Part of our assessment is a task requiring the students to use technology to put together a creative response. I’ve spent time in classes showing our students tools like PreziGlogster, Voicethread, Wikis, Blogs, podcast tools and a site called 60 Second Recap. We’ve tried to encourage our students to think about sharing their presentations with a wider audience than just their classroom, and have tried to make them realise that, in doing so, they can help to create a positive digital profile for themselves.

Today, was a good day. It was a good day because yesterday I spent time in classes outlining how these tools work, and this morning I walked into work and a student excitedly showed me what she had achieved with Prezi last night after getting inspired seeing what it was. This is a student who doesn’t get all that excited about English assignments. She told me she spent four hours working out how to use it and missed all of her TV programs! I tell you, I was smiling all day just thinking about the effect this had had on her. And she wasn’t the only one; another student had gone home and worked out how to use it and had already created a presentation for something she does out of school hours.

These experiences make me hopeful that we will see inroads made. Maybe it’s not the revolution that Sir Ken hopes for (and me too!), but a quiet transformation that just might help to make our students realise that they can direct their own learning, and make others realise that change is in the air.

SOS Podcast – make sure you tune in next week.

SOS 

I’ve just finished listening to Jeff Utecht’s SOS podcast. You can access it Thursday nights at 7.00pm Shanghai time. (10.00pm Australian time) It’s kind of nice to hear the voices to the names you’ve been reading. I came in late but gained something out of their conversation about shifting teachers with new technology. It’s a great vehicle for transferring knowledge. Next week’s topic of discussion is ‘How to Connect’ and Kim Cofino is going to be joining Jeff.

Some good things happened today. We made a start in our planning to join Project Global Cooling and are hoping to have Lindsea join us via Skype for our launch. It’s going to be a bit of work but what great work it will be – the kind of empowering work that energises you and doesn’t deflate you.  Remind me I wrote this in a few weeks time!

 The other good thing was that I introduced a group of students to VoiceThread today. I’ve been hearing about it a lot and thought I better check it out. According to the VoiceThread site, this is what a VoiceThread is;

“A VoiceThread is an online media album that can hold essentially any type of media (images, documents and videos) and allows people to make comments in 5 different ways – using voice (with a microphone or telephone), text, audio file, or video (with a webcam) – and share them with anyone they wish. A VoiceThread allows group conversations to be collected and shared in one place, from anywhere in the world.”

This is a class I take just once a week where I introduce them to new web tools. We looked at some examples and they then had a go at creating one. They really liked the idea that you can draw in the image you are talking about and they could suggest classroom uses for Voicethread. It was the kind of conversation you wish other teachers were listening to. Here was a group of students who could see uses for it in Science, Art, Humanities etc. I’m going to use it with my Year 7 class – I’m going to get them to upload a photo of themself as a young child and have their family members record their memories of that moment. Should be a good test of how it works.  VoiceThread have just launched a new web-based collaborative network called Ed.VoiceThread. They promote it as being simple, powerful and safe. Check out the blog on their site and watch their explanatory VoiceThread – it looks good. This community is specifically designed for K-12 educators and students. I’m going to talk to the Elibrarian I work with about subscribing our school tomorrow. This should help our teachers feel comfortable about using it as a learning tool.