The first half of this week we listened to multiple technology inquiry projects. These topics included, Place-Based Learning, Podcasting, and Freshgrade. I found all of these presentations to be quite in-depth and informative, as they groups have had several months to learn and master these topics and depict key aspects. The rest of the class we touched on QR codes, Augmented reality, and Virtual reality. Below I briefly talk about each and pull out some of the highlights.
Some great activities that can be utilized for place-based learning with a class are Questagame and geocaching. Questagame is an app that allows students to document wildlife, which contributes to an online database! Not only do children get the reward when they find species but they are also helping to track species across the world. With this app they are able to create clans to compete against other clans and learn about species. It is a fun way to get outside and explore what species the world has to offer in a way that engages the new era of tech savvy children. Geocaching was another activity that is a great way to learn navigational and critical thinking skills. This also gets students outdoors and guides them to think in others perspectives when finding the geocache. There is also the option to create your own geocache, which has students think of hints that would help someone else find it.
The appeal to podcasting is that it can have very specific topics because it is designed for a narrower audience. This makes it so there is a podcast on any topic, so everyone can find one that suits their interests. Podcasts are “auditory blogs.” In a classroom situation, podcasting could be used instead of an in person presentation if a child has performance anxiety. There are also amazing podcasts that are made by middle school students for middle school students, like “the unexplainable disappearance of Mars Patel.” They are wonderful tools to learn while multitasking, for example doing chores or drawing. In my classroom I could put one on and have students draw a visual map of the topic. However, for all the great benefits it has to offer, there are a few things to consider. Podcasts can be made by anyone and for this reason are not always valid information. If used with a class, this point should be made clear so students do not think everything they hear is absolute.
One thing in particular stuck with me about Freshgrade. It’s not what did you learn today it is HOW did you learn today. Parents have the chance to visually see what their child is doing, grading is no longer an arbitrary letter to compare to others. For example, if there is a dance unit in PE the parent could look on Freshgrade to watch a video of the dance their child created. It integrates them into what happens throughout the day so that is no longer the question they are asking when they pick their child up from school. Another great feature about the grading tool is that students and parents are able to comment on work, which creates a collaborative and progressive way of learning and grading. This new way of sliding scale grading also takes away grade oriented learners that only focus on the outcome, and allows students to enjoy the process.
There has been lots of pushback with the introduction of Freshgrade. However, one of the takeaways from this presentation was that at first it is more work to document as you go for every individual student, but with practice it actually becomes easier to grade throughout the year instead of cramming it into 2 weeks at the end. Another point against it is that some parents do not use technology at home. In today’s day and age, technology is becoming more and more prevalent and easy to access. Even for the few that this relates to, it can be remedied easily by using technology in the community or even coming into the school to see what their child is doing in the class.
GAFE (Google Apps For Education):
GAFE is educational google apps that can be used in schools. It was briefly touched upon in class but one can get their google certifications for levels 1 and 2 for free to gain more knowledge into the workings of it. A great feature is that when logged into a gmail ID one has access to “classroom.” The one problem with this is that things done out of the districts server can’t be exported into school district, so one would have to start again when in a new district. However, the practice done would help strengthen understanding and speed up the process.
QR codes are scalable square codes that link to other resources. These can be put on bulletin boards, worksheets, or any other similar material. An example of how to use one could be putting them on math worksheet to link to video going over topic. With them you could also link to audio or video files, record your own voice, provide answer keys, or scan for question. Here is one website that helps generate QR codes.
AR (Augmented Reality):
Augmented reality takes QR codes to the next level. With the help of an app called “HP reveal” one can create a hotspot and when that hotspot is scanned it can link to resources, helpful videos, answer keys, and other amazing links. Augmented reality goes further than QR codes. It can also create visuals that “pop” out of the page and can be seen through the screen of the phone that scanned it, and show then end product of buildings if pointed at a construction site hotspot. Argon is a browser that allows others to see augmented reality. The one downside is that the hotspots, sometimes referred to as auras, take the place of QR codes but can be missed unless you are aware they are there.
VR (Virtual Reality):
Virtual reality is similar to augmented reality however it involves a headset. With this headset students are immersed in a new environment and can move around 360′ spaces. This can be beneficial if students are studying about a certain place, it allows them to transport there and experience what it would be like. I have also heard of architecture students using VR to practice looking at dig sites around the world. The con to VR is that it should not be used by children under 13 and should be limited to 30 minutes. It can also induce sea sickness.
Skitch is an app that allows one to take photos and blur out faces before it is uploaded to the cloud. When using other blurring apps, the original photo is still in the cloud. With skitch, the original photo is taken on the app and blurred before it is sent to any storing space on one’s phone. Then the photo can be uploaded. This is a handy tool to use in the classroom when the faces of non-consenting participants are in photos.