Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Make YouTube a test! (EDpuzzle!)

In today's online world, there is a vast ocean of educational resources. A large amount of those resources are in the form of a YouTube video. Instead of discouraging the use of YouTube via internet filters,(like many schools do) EDpuzzle encourages using YouTube in an educational way. EDpuzzle is a classroom-like resource used by teachers that provides students with a class lesson using YouTube videos.

How does EDpuzzle work?

EDpuzzles are created by a teacher for the students. A no-cost account is required by both the student and the teacher to access the EDpuzzle. 

On the teacher homescreen  in order to create an EDpuzzle, a search on YouTube for videos is provided. Teachers can select a video for students and trim the video to the desired lengths and materials. 

As EDpuzzle states, trimming videos is a great feature because it reduces the amount of time spent by students watching irrelevant material having nothing to  do with the lesson.

The next step in creating an EDpuzzle is recording a soundtrack. This allows a teacher to teach the lesson to a student alongside a video. A student can access the teacher's voice at home or in the classroom. In addition, since everyone works at different paces, the student can rewind and hear/ watch the video again for a better understanding.

Another feature a teacher can also utilize in an EDpuzzle is notes. An audio note or a little comment which appears when the student is watching an education video can be very useful.

The last simple step to creating an EDpuzzle is making a quiz! Quiz questions can be multiple choice or open-ended. The teacher will choose a specific spot to freeze the video and ask a simple question. Below is an EDpuzzle quiz I created:

The correct answer is the first choice, "No. The person should be running to a safe, secure location". The EDpuzzle quiz will automatically score multiple choice answers for the teacher and leave open-ended corrections for the teacher's discretion. A student can only take a quiz once and a score is calculated based on how many correct answers the student has given. This can serve as an actual quiz given by teachers.

The teacher can make an EDpuzzle classroom where all students can join via an invite code. 

EDpuzzle is a great tool because it provides teachers with great flexibility. The teacher has the ability to select important sections of a YouTube video, provide audio commentary and create self graded quizzes for students. Instead of blocking YouTube entirely, EDpuzzle provides teachers with the ability to allow students to use YouTube free of other distractions in an educational way.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Is it another boring old fashioned PowerPoint?

Sometimes a simple PowerPoint slide can become boring and unoriginal. Many people have used the traditional presentation software since its inception in 1990 and it is still one of the most commonly used programs in the world. In a previous post, "The Low-cost, high impact way to change education", it was mentioned that a teacher named Michelle Blanchet preached creativity in education. In the most recent English presentation at my school, simple PowerPoint slides were disallowed due to its lack of originality and over usage. So, if we are not using PowerPoints for present presentations, how are we going to present at all? First of all, there are many  other non-profit or low cost presentation softwares online.  However, my favorite of them all is Prezi.

What is Prezi?

Prezi is an online presentation software which focuses on its beautiful elements. The user interface is out of this world and all slides are placed on one large image sewn together by seamless transitions. Anybody can create a Prezi for free using a public account. This is a great creative tool to utilize for presentations. Prezis created by free public accounts can be shared via a URL link to any user of  the internet. This feature is very important because there are many educational Prezis created by people around the world and teachers can utilize this easy to access tool for their students.

So how does a Prezi look or work? And how is it used?

Well it is actually quite difficult to describe to you how this program looks or works, so I'd rather provide you with an example and let you see it for yourself.

Earlier this year in U.S History class, we were learning about the 1920s and Post WWI America. Our teacher decided to utilize a public Prezi about this topic by sharing a link to our Google Classroom. Accessing this Prezi requires no log in and the link will get you straight to the presentation.

In the above picture, a large overview  is given for the subject Nativism. If you click play, the Prezi will automatically zoom in picture to picture or slide to slide. Prezis also gives the user the option to embed videos and personal commentary. With these features, a Prezi can actually present itself. So on a Sunday night right before a huge test, the student can be taught the entire lesson once again as many times as he/she desires!

This is great, but how much does it cost?

The theme on this blog is "low cost education", so obviously Prezi is another low cost online resource used for education. Public accounts are free and must be shared with people around the world. However, there are actually three paid plans Prezi provides. The first paid plan is "Enjoy" which for about five dollars a month it gives you the ability to change privacy settings. The second paid option is "Pro" which has all the features of "Enjoy" but with the addition of offline editing capability and image editing tools. "Pro" is about thirteen dollars a month. The last option, "Teams" is much more expensive but gives you central account management and Prezi training. "Teams" is eight hundred dollars annually for up to 5 users.

Overall, the cost of Prezi is free or very reasonable. I actually really like the fact that Prezi accounts can allow the user to share information publicly. The small cost to make a Prezi private encourages more sharing around the internet and therefore increasing the amount of educational resources present for students to utilize.

Prezi is a super fun and creative presentation software that can be utilized for free. Next time you have a presentation to give, don't forget PowerPoints can get lame and Prezi is a great way to spice up your speech!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Lumen Learning over physical textbooks!

Over the past several years, the amount of internet resources for education has grown exponentially. Many of these resources have become either low cost or completely free! Lumen Learning is a great online tool for anybody needing to find a low cost online textbook-like resource! On the Lumen Learning webpage, there are three open courseware choices. These options are, Waymaker, Candela and OER degrees.

Waymaker is a new resource by Lumen which is actually quite revolutionary. Many learning softwares today make decisions independently and adjust accordingly to either a correct or an incorrect answer. For example, a type of formative assessment taken by middle school students  called the MAP test will adjust the difficulty level of upcoming questions based on the performance of the students answers on previosu in earlier questions. However, what makes Waymaker special is that instead of hiding the learning process behind the learner, it provides transparency. Waymaker asks the learner to "reflect" on where they are instead of making a computer decision solely on an incorrect or correct answer. 

Photo (Above) shows the "reflective" learning of Waymaker. Credits: Lumen Learning

In Waymaker, Open Educational Resources (OER) are utilized for the learning experience. In an institution which uses Lumen Learning, staff can customize content based on the need of the students. However, an assessment must be performed in order to make decisions on customization. Waymaker provides, "Formative pre-tests and self-checks, summative quizzes and human-graded performance assessments [to] offer guidance to students and faculty about where to focus and how to improve learning"(Lumen Learning). Currently, Waymaker is providing courses on:

  • Introduction to Business
  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics
  • Principles of Marketing
You may request a demo of Waymaker by contacting Lumen Learning. 

The second of the three Lumen Learning open courseware choices  is Candela. The main purpose of Candela is to provide a cheap alternative to textbooks. Candela is provided for over 60 high enrollment college level courses and is designed using open educational resources. 

While 60 might not seem like a very large number, if you browse through the Candela catalog, each of the 60 plus subjects that are present actually go pretty far in depth. For example, if you click on American Government, a table of contents with videos and many reading resources organized with a clear structure appear. Before every section, learning objectives also appear which help the reader  focus on the important ideas. 

Another beneficial reason of using Candela over physical textbooks (besides cost) is its ability to improve learning. Lumen evaluates the effectiveness of its courses regularly. Additionally, clients of Lumen also interact to improve the online resource. However, a physical textbook can not do the same. A textbook is printed once and if changes need to be made, the entire textbook must be reprinted or resold. 

The final of three Lumen coursewares is creating an OER degree program. This courseware's biggest benefit is its low cost textbooks. According to some, this program is also known as the Z-degree. Meaning zero textbook cost.This program is such a huge benefit to students in college struggling financially. Textbooks can easily cost the student  hundreds of dollars each, and when a student is taking many different courses at a time for multiple years, textbook costs  can easily reach several thousand dollars. Not only is an OER degree program financially beneficial to a student,"In eleven separate research studies published in peer-reviewed journals, which include over 48,000 college and university students, 93% of students whose faculty assigned OER in place of commercial textbooks received final course grades that were the same or higher than control students using commercial textbooks (1)" (Lumen Learning). If both your grades and your wallet can benefit, why miss out on an OER degree program?

Lumen Learning is the definition of low cost, highly productive learning. Instead of buying textbooks, a lower cost, abstract, but still effective version of a textbook is utilized. The environmental benefits of printing less textbooks also apply and students often perform better in an OER degree program. So if you can save paper, your money and improve your grades, why would you miss out on this great opportunity?