Prezi: Completely Amazing Non-Linear Presentation Tool

Written on 8:49 PM by Ur English Teacher

Here's my first foray into Prezi. I don't see an embed code option on the site, and I'd like to. Perhaps soon! But never mind that, there's so much there to be happy about, I hardly noticed.

Once again, my colleague Jill Malpass showed me this free Web 2.0 tool that is KILLER for education. It MIGHT be the most amazing thing I've seen this year. Jill made the comment that it was not easy to learn to use, and I agree in part. There are no text-based on-screen directions, though there appears to be a lot of tutorial info, which I ignored. I like to learn by doing, so I dove right in. Once I let go of the expectation that words were going to pop up and tell me what to do, I found the controls to be intuitive and even smart. I think students (Digital Natives) will have a MUCH easier time learning to use this tool than Digital Immigrants. Here's a screencast showing the basics of how to use it as well as what it does for the rest of us:

I'm guessing I don't need to tell you how this is educationally relevant, but just in case you want to hear it anyway, here are some things I'm thinking of . . .

1. Organizing thoughts on any topic. History? Not all events fit into a timeline, but even if they do, you can show that using this tool. What about connected events? Music from the time period? Put it in. Make it logical. Show how it "goes." Literature? How do two authors/works relate to each other? You can make two or more areas in your infinitely large presentation space, then show connections among elements both by how you connect the elements, how you place them, and how you use the arrows/connectors. AMAZING possibilities for making thoughts visible. (Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkess anyone?)

2. Use this tool instead of a linear presentation tool (like PowerPoint--please, NOT PowerPoint! At least use Google Presentations or OpenOffice 3 if you just need some download & installation action in your life), to connect different subject areas. For example, if you're a science teacher studying the water cycle, students should make connections between that topic and the current drought we're experiencing (at least in my neck 'o the woods), and how does the water cycle relate to a hurricane? We've had a couple of those lately! Check that link up yonder to see what it looked like around my abode after Ike.

I bet you've seen Visual Thesaurus (lots of $) and Visuwords (free, but use my link or make your own, don't use the default or you may get a not so nice word). What if students made their own vocabulary maps like the ones found on those sites but with personal connections? They could even insert their own links, drawings, and music. They could show how their words relate to each other. What if I were trying to learn the word "obnoxious" or "noxious"? I could define them in my own words, but then I could also put in that I think Bart Simpson is "obnoxious," and that my Grandma's perfume smells "noxious" (no offense Grandma; it doesn't). In addition, I could add pictures that connect my own personal ideas. It might take Digital Immigrants 3 hours to do one word, but give your 3rd graders a shot. They'll pick it up MUCH faster than you or me and be adding each word in minutes.

I have about a million more ideas, but I'm guessing you're not still reading this. By now, you're probably playing with Prezi.

Are you a Digital Native or a Digital Immigrant? A 20th or a 21st Century Learner?

Written on 1:12 PM by Ur English Teacher

After reading some of Marc Prensky's controversial and thought-provoking work, I created the quiz below for a staff development session. The questions are there twice, yet the statements are reversed to show how shift happens and so that it can be used as a discussion tool.

Enjoy finding out if you are a Digital Native, a Digital Immigrant, . . . or somewhere in between!
(I also heard the term "Digital Refugee" last week. It feels useful, though perhaps is a tad demeaning, especially if used to the face of such a one.)

This quiz is not to make you "feel bad" about your 'hometown' (as some persons doggedly insist), but it is important for us to remember that kids these days may not be from our locale. It's something to think about while you're filing those emails you've been printing, if, that is, you're able to do more than one thing at a time.

Make Stuff Online for the Dad(s) in Your Life for Father's Day

Written on 6:23 AM by Ur English Teacher

I can't take credit for this idea, teacher Amina Bradford told me about it right after Mother's Day this year, and one of her colleagues thought of it: Use Wordle to create (or have your kids create) a "Beautiful Word Cloud". . . this time, about Dad. (Example for my Dad.) Put the word "Dad" in twice to make it the biggest. Download the image, then send it in to a photo printing service to have it professionally printed, pop it in a frame, and there you go! Unforgettable father's day present! Amina's friend did this for Mother's day and her students came up with words like "loud, squishy, and hungry." How awesome is that?

Use a tool like Glogster or Scrapblog to make a photo collage/book of you and your Dad. Fun! When you finish, download the image, or if you can't get it like you want it, blow it up so that you can see the whole thing on your computer screen, then hit the print screen (prt sc, maybe fn>prt sc on a laptop), then open your photo editing program (I like PhotoFiltre--free and amazing), and hit Edit Paste. Size/edit your image for sending off for professional printing or print on your color printer.

If you're REALLY getting into this idea, you could make a cartoon of your Dad using ToonDoo. How about showing an important event you remember or creating a little cartoon you with your little cartoon Dad and let your character say all those gushy things you might not say in person?

If you're doing this project with kids who can't write yet, try SumoPaint to let even the littlest ones draw Dad, or if you have a bonafide artist in the house, see what they can do with the amazing advanced tools SumoPaint offers. If you want to keep it simple, photograph your kids' drawings with your digital camera, then add them to your Dad Book or get them framed. You can use PhotoFiltre (again, it's free) to crop and intensify the color saturation to make them really pop.

You can make a whole book for your dad yourself or use a service like (start today) to have your book professionally printed.

Of course, Dad would love some text thrown in there too. Find some great quotes about amazing Dads. Add some of the lyrics of his favorite song in that Scrapblog or Glogster, or if you're going to turn all this great stuff into a video using Animoto, put that song in the background. And here's the English teacher coming out: Have your kids (or yourself) write a formula poem. They are surprisingly moving. Just make up a rule, then follow it, for example, every line starts with

Dad, Did you know that . . . ? and the poem will be called "Dad, Did you know?" Trust me, people will cry, probably including you when you write it or read it.

If you feel the need to give your Dad something more traditionally "Dad like" for father's day, how about making "The World's Smallest Toolbox" for him? I don't really know if a Dad would like this, but I WANT ONE!