It’s All About the Impossible

Check out ImpossibleHQ for a free download of a great educational eBook: 50 Quotes to Inspire You to Do the Impossible. A few choice ones:

To the timid and hesitating everything is impossible because it seems so — Sir Walter Scott

The limits of the possible can only be defined by going beyond them into the impossible — Arthur C. Clarke

It is either easy or impossible — Salvador Dali

This is not only a great resource for helping students to see past limitations, it is a useful model for the kind of project that should be well within the capability of today’s well-technology-equipped students.

Rather than just taking inspiration from reading a book like this, students can publish their own book with quotes they find particularly inspiring. (And note the careful attribution of all the images used — another good example set.)

We’re already mentioned BoomWriter as a great resource for collaborative writing projects. It would be a good choice for a book with more of a story or narrative focus. Glogster we have also mentioned a s good resource for creating posters — including those of the inspirational variety. For a full-on eBook, the best bet might be Google Office suite. There are also some fantastic iPad apps for creating this sort of thing, although those will all involve a certain amount of cost.

 

 

 

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Improving Creative Skills Via Social Technology

Keeping with the theme from our last couple of posts, here is an item about  the positive impact of social technology in the classroom:

Social Media Makes for Better Student Writing, Not Worse, Teachers Say

“As an English teacher who is trying to improve student writing, one thing I see is that people are seeing greater ownership of their writing when they know it will be seen beyond the class and the teacher,” Woollven, 40, said.

This is the value of operating within a shared social space or, to put it in simpler terms,  the value of having an audience. Students care a lot more about the quality of what they’re doing if it isn’t just the teacher looking at their work. This is to some extent counterintuitive — the teacher is the only one that “matters” from a grade standpoint, but students don’t see it that way. Knowing that classmates (and others) will be reading their work motivates them to produce a better piece of writing.

By extension, we can assume that producing other kinds of creative product enjoys the same boost in quality from occurring within a shared space. We have been looking at Glogster in several of our previous posts; it’s interesting to note that a Glog shared with the rest of the class (or the rest of the school, or even a larger audience) will probably be of higher quality than one created solely  for the student’s viewing, or intended just to be shared with the teacher.

In the linked article, the teachers talk about using blogs as a means of allowing students to share their writing with a larger audience. In my previous post I mentioned BoomWriter, which  adds a competitive element to the idea of writing within a shared space. Only one student’s version of each chapter of the book is chosen for inclusion in the final. It would be interesting to know how much impact this added factor has on the quality of the student’s writing.

 

The Sandbox

As we explore the social side of EdTEch, we are quickly learning that “social” interaction is a lot more than links and likes and friend requests. At its best, social educational technology enables not just a connection but a shared experience.

In his post on Social EdTech and Making Stuff, Phil wrote that augmented reality technology is is usually also social technology because it allows the learners to re-create the social space they are in. Look at this example of a learning space that students can change with their hands in real time.

The topology is projected from above and is based on the height of the sand. So a student can change a  blistering sand dune into a fertile valley just by running her hand through the sand. Working together or independently, students can quickly redefine the entire landscape — creating lakes, building islands, damming rivers.

This literal sandbox is a great example of how students work together to create and redefine a social space. But, as Phil wrote, the sandbox doesn’t have to be a physical space. Using solutions like Glosgter, students are creating amazing shared learning spaces in poster form. And with solutions like BoomWriter, they are creating whole new fictional worlds together.

This is a great opportunity and challenge for teachers, of course. It’s one thing to manage a classroom, and another to manage a classroom that includes many whole worlds of learning.

Social EdTech and Making Stuff

There is more to social educational technology than Quora and Twitter. Some technologies have a social component that we might not immediately recognize.

Augmented reality (AR) is frequently touted as one of the hot trends in education, and with good reason. Embedding the world around us with relevant information — and making that information easily accessible in real time and in conjunction with our experience of the real world — is perhaps the next big leap forward in computing.  The educational applications of such technology are  profound. Solutions such as Aurasma — which puts accessible “auras” around real-world objects, providing access to information in context —  are already being deployed in a wide variety of educational settings. Participants in classes using such technologies are involved in a new kind of social experience, one wherein the social space overlaps with the actual space in which the participants find themselves.

Another kind of of social experience occurs when students use technology to make something new. The act of creating and sharing something in the real world is one of the most fundamental of social activities. Where a technology such as Aurasma turns the surrounding space into a platform for consuming information, a technology such as MakeyMakey enables users to turn objects in the real world into devices that manipulate the cyber world. When students make a working keyboard out of alphabet soup or a musical instrument out of a bunch of bananas (both real examples of MakeyMakey projects), they are making changes to the shared social space.

And this is true whether the technology in question produces real-world artifacts (such as you get from a 3-D printer) or purely virtual ones. That’s why technologies such as Glogster and Vine  (and Youtube, for that matter) all have a very important social component. To create something new is to introduce something into the shared space, whether that shared space is real, or virtual, or a combination of the two. A technology such as BoomWriter is particularly interesting in this regard because it involves both a creative social experience — a class writes a book by selecting chapters written by class members — and the creation of a shared space, where the book itself becomes a new world that the class members have created together.

Increasingly, technology enables us all to be makers of things — whether they be musical compositions, sculptures, or 140-character masterpieces of wit. Recognizing and leveraging the inherent social nature of all such creative activities is a critical challenge both for educators and for the producers of edtech solutions.

 

 

Current Recommendations

BoomWriter – A free collaborative writing site for kids in grades 3-12, BoomWriter lets students create and share stories. BoomWriter is a terrific project-based learning tool for any balanced literacy program and can also be applied in other curriculum areas. BoomWriter engages children and lets teachers provide students with impactful individualized feedback on their writing. Sign up at www.boomwriter.com. (Check out David Kapuler’as review at Tech & Learning.)

ClassBadges – A great tool for motivating children, ClassBadges lets teachers create and award virtual badges to students for accomplishments and/or academic mastery. It’s a free tool, and students will be inspired to build their portfolio of badges that can be customized towards any subject or activity. Sign up at www.classbadges.com to motivate your students.

Glogster – Enabling teachers and students to create Glogs – online multimedia posters, Glogster is one of the best ways for students to creatively express their knowledge and skills. Go to www.glogster.com to learn more.

MentorMob – This site allows teachers to curate websites, videos, blogs, and more into ‘Learning Playlists’. Instead of searching alone, MentorMob allows educators from all around the world to show off what they know and learn from each other. Go to www.mentormob.com to check out this great site.