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MentorMob

There is a lot of gold on the Internet but sometimes your students can spend a huge amount of time mining for it, searching and getting distracted by content that is not relevant to the task in hand. MentorMob allows teachers (and why not let your students be the teachers?) to focus the students’s attention by creating learning playlists of relevant content which can be enhanced by quizzes and comprehension exercises to test their knowledge as they go.

As you can see above, MentorMob playlists can be easily shared and even embedded on classroom blogs. In the above example of a learning playlist, I wanted my students to do some preparation work prior to watching a film – La piel que habito – which we would then discuss and critique. Rather than giving them a worksheet or just asking them to Google the film, I decided to try out the tool after Eric Pitt from MentorMob wrote to me last January to introduce the service.

This example is fairly simple – it only contains four steps – but notice how the students are directly taken to the websites I have deemed appropriate and how their attention is immediately drawn to the task at hand – in this case, vocabulary building and comprehension – by the quizzes that you can build within MentorMob.

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Storybird: Providing a Tangible Outcome

My fondest memories of school are of the occasions on which I made stuff. When I think about what other aspects of my learning I enjoyed most, I always come back to the basic principle of creativity. Getting me involved in creative tasks that result in tangible outcomes was one of the ways my teachers ensured that I remained engaged and enjoyed the process of learning.

Working on a model of the solar system was a sure way of getting me to remember the planets (9 in those days) and our place in the universe. I was never naturally good at maths or physics, but making tracks and ramps down which to throw ball bearings gave me a much better understanding of Newtonian physics than any number of equations you might want to throw at me.

Technology today gives us the tools and the possibility to enjoy making stuff and exercise our pupil’s creativity in new ways: Now you can make stuff virtually as well as actually.

My classes and I exploit these new possibilities by regularly embarking on projects which require exercising creative skills and, in so doing, going far beyond the confines of the curriculum.

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Showcasing Content with Jux

Jux is a stunning image-based alternative to what you might call ordinary blogging and allows the user to make impactful statements and delightful slideshows using their six different posting styles – slideshow, photo, block quote, photo, video, article and countdown.

Pictures can be uploaded from your own hard-drive or sourced from services such as Facebook, Flickr or Instagram.

Jux can be used by teachers to introduce or reinforce topics or, even better, by the students themselves as the culmination of a research or creative writing project.

Currently, as far as I can see, Jux only allows one Jux per user. It would be fantastic if students and teachers could have different Juxes for different topics or projects under the same main account. It would also be fabulous if individual pages from Jux could be printed out to form part of classroom displays. I wonder if Jux is listening…

Anyway, here is a Jux I made earlier using the block quote format in Jux, using quotations from my personal blog Socially Networked.

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Reviewing Apple’s iBooks Author

Apple recently announced the launch of its free iBooks Author desktop application, which – they claim – “allows anyone to create beautiful Multi-Touch textbooks — and just about any other kind of book — for iPad. With galleries, video, interactive diagrams, 3D objects, and more, these books bring content to life in ways the printed page never could.” 

This post takes you through my humble first attempt at making my first iBook using iBooks Author. The gallery below contains screen captures of all the aspects I will cover in this review:

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First Impressions

When Apple announced the new iBooks Author app, my first reaction was to say about time! The iPad was clearly a powerful tool for content delivery in schools but, prior to the announcement, content creation and sharing was very much the realm of the professionals, which I was clearly not. Yes, you could use Pages to create multimedia documents which you could then export as ePub files, but the results look positively amateurish compared with what iBooks Author can deliver.

Using iBooks Author

iBooks looks very much like a cross between Pages and Keynote (Apple’s answer to Word and Powerpoint respectively). As a regular user of both, I felt I knew my way around iBooks Author instinctively from the word go. Even if you are not familiar with other native Mac applications, the ready-made templates and the intuitive tools and layout allow you to start writing your iBooks straight away.

An important aspect for someone, like me, who has lots of older word documents already saved in my hard drive, is that importing into iBooks author is as easy as dragging a word document into the application. It then automatically creates an iBook with it with the correct titles, chapters and sections. The same process applies to images, video and sound clips. This is a massive time-saver.

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Teaching and Learning with Social Media: A Case Study

In my role as teacher of languages, I have sought to study and understand how the social aspect of Web 2.0 can be harnessed to strengthen the teaching and learning of MFL. Most interesting to me was the transformative potential of blogs, Web 2.0 applications and social networks, not only to enhance existing practice, but also to create new technology-based tasks which would have been previously inconceivable[1. PUENTEDURA, R R (2006) Transformation, Technology, and Education. (2006) Available from http://hippasus.com/resources/tte/ Accessed 11/08/2011], a process depicted below:

Puentedura

However, in order to assess whether learning socially online can truly have a transformative and positive impact on learning outcomes and curriculum delivery as accurately as possible, it is important to moderate any inherent positivity and open up the field of study to all viewpoints[2. SELWIN, N (2011) In praise of pessimism - the need for negativity in education technology. In British Journal of Educational Technology, Volume 42, Number 5, pp 713-718 Available from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01215.x/abstract Accessed 30/08/2011], discarding any preconceived notions that may bias the conclusions of this case study and taking care not to avoid any evidence that may be counter to those notions[3. COHEN, ., MANION, L. & MORRISON, K (2007) Research Methods in Education. London: Routledge-Falmer. Available from http://lib.leeds.ac.uk/record=b2879829 Accessed 18/04/2011].

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Do you know of a teaching and learning resource you would like to share? Please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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