Friday, October 23, 2009

Wordle, Voki, Etherpad, and other normal labels!

This week I had some fun working with a few Web 2.0 tools that I think have real value in the classroom especially when it comes to expressing creativity. In light of all the talk about our society placing such great value on left brain or L-Directed Thinking, we need some outlets in our classrooms that encourage students to think from the right hemisphere that explores the arts, language, individuality, colour, and design. Technology has made it possible for students to express themselves in ways I would never have imagined possible when I was a student in elementary school. Our world has come a long ways from slate boards and Crayons.

The first tool I tried out was Wordle. What a fun tool! I love language and words. Wordle is a tool that generates “word clouds” from text that you provide. The collection of words are given greater prominence based upon the frequency of the text or words used. You can change the design by using different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. You can randomize the layout so hundreds of other designs are produced with the same highlighted words. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.Very cool. Let me demonstrate by grabbing the text from last week's blog. I used one word more frequently, so it is displayed more prominently. Can you tell which word I used? I will also display a couple of different random images of the same words.

These are just two examples of what Wordle can do. Imagine the fun students can have writing a topical paragraph and then copying and pasting the paragraph into Wordle and creating beautiful expressions of their writing. Then the student can share this Wordle with their peers and have then guess or decode the message found in the image.

The second tool was Voki. I've embedded a Voki, which is a blend of voice and avatar. This year, our theme for our students is "Be the change you want to see." This is a quote from Gandhi. So I found a Gandhi talking head and recorded a message for viewers, such as yourself. I tried to find an actual mp3 of Gandhi's voice saying these words, but was unsuccessful.

But you can upload mp3 files and the avatar will mouth the words for you. The beauty of a tool like this is how it gives students a voice when many lack the confidence to video themselves. Students can choose from a wide array of avatars, dress them up, add backgrounds, and more. Once again this Web 2.0 tool can be a way of students expressing themselves for presentations that the teacher plays on a digital projector for the class, or embed in a website or wikispace, or place in a PowerPoint presentation. There are so many options available with this little tool. Great way to encourage to students to speak out.

The final tool I was introduced this week was EtherPad. Most of us have used Google Docs and shared out files with peers or colleagues. But EtherPad gives you the opportunity to edit documents live in real-time with another colleague. When multiple people edit the same document simultaneously, any changes are instantly reflected on everyone's screen. This is a great way to collaborate on text documents, and extremely useful for meeting notes, drafting sessions, education, team programming, and more. Students can use this in global projects or collaborate with other schools in the same division, or across the globe. When a number of the staff were looking at this tool in a PD session we had today, many of the responses were, "Wow." This is a group of staff that have seen a lot of web resources since they teach online. When a tool like EtherPad gets "wows" it must be pretty impressive. The only drawback is that there is cost associated with it if you have more than three people wanting to edit at the same time. Despite this, I see a lot of uses for it. I just might have to be creative!

I've embedded a demo of EtherPad. Check it out!

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