The opportunities I have had exploring and creating professional blogs in this course have provided me a totally different perspective on them. Before taking this course, I viewed blogs as a way to share personal experiences, such as study abroad. However since taking this course I now can see how useful blogs can be in an academic setting, whether that means having the students create informational blogs on a specific subject or creating a professional blog for parents to learn important information, dates, and to see what we are currently working on in the classroom. A professional classroom blog is easily accessible for parents and easily manipulated and modified from the teacher and students. I may be biased, but I find WordPress to be the best blog site to use; it is user friendly, allows pictures and videos on blog posts, and allows you to “follow” and comment on other blogs. A classroom blog serves as an online communicative newsletter, but unlike a traditional newsletter it allows the parents to easily communicate back to the teacher by one click of a button, rather than the parent having to write a note or email to the teacher after reading a newsletter. Parents could follow the class blog and stay updated on current classroom/school-wide events and dates, and could comment with questions and concerns for the teacher. I find a classroom blog to be very beneficial for both the teacher and the parents, and plan on using one in my future classroom.
I chose to first explore the Animoto site in search for how I could use it in my classroom. Animoto is a web 2.0 tool that can be used to create video slideshows to communicate information to students. It could also be used by the students to share and present information they gather about a specific assignment topic, whether it be a historical figure, a country, a type of animal, etc. One aspect of Animoto that I find appealing is that it allows the user to create and view the video slideshow via computer, a phone, or a tablet. Therefore the students have more opportunities to create Animoto videos using technology other than a computer. One drawback to this web tool is that because it was not created to be used solely in the classroom, there are no boundaries when it comes to students creating video slideshows. Teachers must set these boundaries and discuss video appropriateness before allowing students to take on the task of creating their own video slideshows using Animoto.
GoAnimate is another tool that can be used to create and share animated videos. Unlike Animoto, this site provides animated characters and backgrounds that can be used to create fun and interactive videos. Although this site is similar to Animoto in that it allows for video creations, GoAnimate seems to be more appropriate for teachers to use at the introduction of a lesson unit or to teach a topic that otherwise may seem boring or uninteresting to the students. After exploring the site, the one drawback that I found was the site subscriptions. The site allows the user to do very little without paying for a subscription to use the tools to create and produce videos. However, the subscription may be beneficial for a teacher who finds the videos to be useful in the classroom.
I also explored Voki, a tool that creates speaking avatars that can be used to communicate information to students in a unique way. Although I find the avatars to be somewhat creepy, I can imagine that students would love the idea of an avatar talking to them! Vokis could be used to introduce a lesson, assign homework or projects, and so much more. One aspect of Voki that I find very appealing is that the user can control what language the avatar speaks in; this could be so beneficial for an ESL student or when teaching another language to a class.
By allowing students to use these web tools in the classroom to create and produce information instead of completing a worksheet or taking a test, students are reaching a deeper, more meaningful level of Bloom’s taxonomy and are taking control of their own learning.
Since my last blog post, I have gained experience creating and working with spreadsheets and databases. Although I have had previous experiences using both of these tools, I feel that the assignments were very beneficial for me as a future teacher. It has been a long time since I used spreadsheets, so the assignment was a great refresher for me. I have a feeling I will use spreadsheets very often in my classroom to organize and manage grades, attendance, and more. Even though we use databases almost every day, I have never used the Microsoft Access software to create my own database. Once I explored the program, made a few mistakes, and watched several tutorial videos I finally figured out how to create and use a database (it was one of those experiences where I had to struggle to succeed, but now that I know how to use Access, I don’t feel I will struggle as much in the future). I really like how the database program can save information so that once you enter all the information into the database, you do not have to go back and re-type each time you want to use the information.