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Education

Web 2.0, Higher-Order Thinking, and Macbeth: Part 6

Macbeth: A catalog of technology

How could you talk me into using all this technology, Macbeth? Twitter, Storify, TweetDeck? Where will it end?

Our district’s inservice today is all about HEATing up our lessons.  I think our Macbeth unit has fit the bill.  Looking back on the first portion of this project leads to quite a tally of technology use.

Twitter

We use Twitter to compose brief responses from the point of view of a character from Macbeth.

Strengths:

  • Brevity- 140 characters can be composed very briefly
  • Speed- From when the question is asked to the posting of the tweet can be completed within in 2-5 minutes even for hesitant, insecure, or low-level students
  • Universality (usable across multiple platforms and OS’s)
  • Cost (free!)

Weaknesses

  • Ephemeral -Tweets disappear from all searches after less than a week
  • Cyberbulling- Without monitoring and setting the tone early, Twitter can become a fertile ground for cyberbullying.
  • Sheer volume.  With 140 students + 27 scenes = 3780 tweets (minimum)!

Storify

Named as one of the top social media websites by Time Magazine in 2011, Storify is our aggregation resource and is the “host” of the final product of this unit.

Strengths

  • Ease of use (shallow learning curve)
  • Flexibility
  • Cost (free!)
  • Web based so access is easy
  • Storify Extension makes “storifying” content (tweets, images, etc.) easy
  • Login is linked (or can be) to Twitter account (also makes importing tweets easier)

Weaknesses

  • Requires Google Chrome and Storify Extension installed for full functionality
  • Twitter searches (if the network is slow or very busy) often fail to produce any results
  • Using the built in image search produces few results and those that do appear are so small as to be difficult to judge their relative quality
  • Cannot upload images or other content directly into Storify (I had a photograph I took.  My options were to tweet the image, post to my blog then import the image or link from the blog, or to post to Flickr.com which requires a signup–and has a limit on the number of photos you can post before a fee is required).

Email

Email serves as a basic connection method.  We used it to sign up for Twitter and for sharing the link to the storify.

Strengths

  • Solid, stable platform
  • a known quantity  (the students have used email before)

Weaknesses

  • Another password to remember
  • Can only be reset by our building librarian (It would be nice for the student to be able to link the email to another (personal) account and reset the password himself/herself.)

Google Docs

We use Google docs for sharing the rubric and to provide progressive feedback.

Strengths

  • Cost (free?  We have our own “domain” so there is likely a fee involved, but no additional fee for the students.)
  • Flexibility
  • Interactivity

Weaknesses

  • Cumbersome to share a single document with many students so each has his/her own copy and only we(teacher and student) can see it (as we wanted in the case of the rubric)

TweetDeck

We use TweetDeck for live monitoring of tweets as the students post them.  This allows us to provide positive reinforcement for great tweets and to redirect students who did not understand the scene or see who did not do the activity.

Strengths

  • Cost (free)
  • Immediacy (Tweets appear within 2-3 seconds after posting.)
  • Stable (It does what we want it to without crashing.)

Weaknesses

  • Immediacy (If a student were to post an offensive tweet it would appear for the entire class to see.  There is no filter.  The teacher must set the standard very high for digital citizenship or this could be a disaster waiting to happen.)
  • Learning curve (The interface can be a little intimidating at first, but that quickly eases.)

Moodle

Moodle is our catch-all.  We post any links, handouts, videos, screencasts necessary for the unit.

Strengths

  • Free
  • Easily accessible
  • Can be made available to the parents and guests as well
  • Moderately flexible

Weaknesses

  • Slow 
  • Cumbersome workflow (It can be a pain to add multiple files at a time.)
  • Limited memory?  (We tried to post 8-10 YouTube videos, but after about the fourth or fifth they wouldn’t appear although the links and formatting were good.  It seems like Moodle–or our network–limits the bandwith at times.)

Jing

We used Jing to create brief screencasts of how to use Twitter and Storify.

Strengths

  • Cost (free)
  • Flexibility (the screencast could be of the entire screen or just of a portion)

Weaknesses

  • Free version is limited to 5 minute recordings
  • The output (the video) is not in a common format and cannot be uploaded to YouTube, SchoolTube, Vimeo without conversion.  We had to posted to Screencast.com.  Thankfully there was no fee associated with this.
  • Unable to stop and start screencast.  Once you have begun recording you cannot pause and then begin again.  Each recording is separate.  Without a video editing program which could handle the flv format Jing produces, the videos would remain separate.

Google Chrome

Chrome is our go-to browser.  It is simple, stable, and (after talking with our IT department) readily available on our school’s computers.

Strengths

  • Free
  • Fast and up-to-date (we had issues with Internet Explorer being 2-5 years out of date on our school computers)
  • Cross-platform (works on both Windows and OSX machines)
  • Storify extension improves workflow allowing easy importation of tweets, images, etc.

Weaknesses

  • none we could find  (I think most of our issues were problems with the network and not with the programs/apps.)

Storify App for iPad

We are a BYOD district so some students use their iPads to complete the Storify, Tweet and so on.  The Storify app is relatively new.

Strengths

  • Purpose built by Storify
  • Intuitive

 Weaknesses

  • Sharing of the storify can only be done via Facebook or Twitter; sharing via emailing the url is not an option as the url cannot be seen within the app

 

Conclusions

When we mapped out what this unit would look like and what programs and apps we would use, we did not envision that we would be using eight or nine different programs.  The students use perhaps half of these, but the learning curve for a teacher not already familiar with most of these programs could be quite steep.  Emily Reinert and I have already learned a great deal about what changes we will make for next year, but that’s something for another post.

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About Rob Sterner

English teacher, Film buff, Filmmaker, Writer, Musician, Photographer, Runner, Taoist, Thinker, List maker...

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