Posts tagged ‘Technology’


A year or so ago Michelle blogged about alternatives to gcast. One of the websites that she mentioned was Since then, I have had the opportunity to work with the site a little bit. It is an easy, quick, and free way to create slideshows that include not only your pictures, but your voice. It combines podcasting and digital photography.

I have had teachers make a yodio of their autistic students that was used to provide information about that student to staff members. Another teacher is using yodio to showcase her student’s alliteration book. After each child creates their image and sentence, they are recording themselves reading their page. Yet another teacher has used yodio as a way for students to narrate how to solve a math problem. This example is available below:

Teachers can use yodio as a way to track student’s ability to read a piece of text – another fluency check. It can be a great way to showcase a students development not only for yourself, but for students and parents.

A note: if you add your phone number from school and that number doesn’t show up on a caller I.D., then it won’t automatically tie into your account. There is a way to add a password when you use that number so that you can access that podcast on your account.

For ease of use, this is a great way for students to begin creating personalized products.

Dvolver Movies

It has been many, many months since I have last posted, but I decided that I really wanted to post at least one thing over break. I decided to focus on

This site allows anyone to create a three scene movie with up to two characters in each scene. Students can choose the setting, the background, the characters (and their dialog), the music, their title, and the title theme. It is a great way to allow students to begin working with these concepts in a more sophisticated way. I have had my students create movies explaining an important historical event, a process, and a “how to” video. They were able to select their topics based upon those three criteria. You could have students create a video on virtually anything. Some ideas would include: how to solve a math problem, a biography of a historical figure (or themselves), how to care for an animal or pet, how to play a game, and why something is important.

Since my students weren’t setting up an account, they had to create their video in one class sitting. I therefore created a graphic organizer where they selected their scene, background, character, and music selections ahead of time. I also have a place for them to write out their dialog. I found that if I just had them try to create it on the fly, they really struggled with not only finishing it within the class period, but also creating a quality product.

Just a small warning before you have your students create their own movies – preview the entire process first. There are several scenes and characters that would not be appropriate for students to use. I do not include those options in the graphic organizer that I created. When I am previewing the site with them, I show them all of the characters and scenes, but quickly point out those that are not O.K. for them to use. I have had no problems with them using inappropriate characters or scenes.

The great thing about dvlover is that you can embed the movies. I have my students embed theirs on their personal page on the class wiki. Click here to view some examples of my students’ movies.

Since I teach in a K-8 school, I can have my students create movies that can be used to instruct younger students or to extend their knowledge. I try hard to have a purpose beyond just completing the assignment for them to consider.

Below is a Jing screencast that I created to explain how to create a movie.


This screencast explains how to embed your dvolver movie onto a wikispaces page.

Embedding Dvolver

This is the graphic organizer that I created for my class: dvolver storyboard-1

I have found dvolver to be a great way for my students to create a visual representation of their knowledge.

In December, a colleague of mine, Kevin Byers, told me about a site that he was using with his students – I was curious about the site and decided, after talking to him about it for a while, to try it with my students. Over winter break, I created my classroom Ning. I decided that I would keep the site closed so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it being open to everyone. My students had to access the site by invitation only through e-mail, so I decided that I would use their ePal accounts. After returning to school, I got permission from my principal and was ready to begin the process.

I first had to teach my students about social sites (which Ning is), how to communicate on them, how to navigate to the site, selecting an avatar, and the list goes on. My students loved it immediately. It was something that they were interested in doing not only every day at school, but also at home. After I had buy-in, I knew that I must keep the purpose of the site academically related.

We started by having discussions in the forum section about the books that they were reading. Invitations to join the site were extended to all of my students, but also to administrators and other teachers that were interested in posting information. This became a place where all of my students could communicate.

From there, I moved to embedding videos on the site. The first round of videos were based on what my students were studying in social studies class. For one group, a video on ancient Greece, for another, an archaeological dig, and for the last group, Chinese immigration. After watching the video, there was a question and they needed to respond to it. They could also respond to someone else’s comment. I found that this was an engaging way to bring content into my classroom so that I could support building background knowledge.

While was free, I was able to embed podcasts that my students had given over various books so that others could listen to it.

Moving into next year, I plan on teaching my students about blogging (as there is a blog feature). I think that this can be a great way to lead into a more technical writing, especially if they begin quoting other sources (which I would like for them to do).

If you decide to start your own Ning (which means “peace” in Chinese, by the way), there are several things to keep in mind.

1. Decide if you want your site to be open or closed. As the creator of the site, you have network creator privileges and select the level of security that you want.

2. You can also decide what types of features that you want on the site (videos, blogs, groups, forums, music, events, etc).

3. You can decide the level of control over what information is posted. For some features, you can establish a requirement that the network creator must approve posts.

4. Each member of the Ning has their own page. As network creator, you can decide if they can change the colors on that page (this was something that I did allow).

5. Since my Ning was for academic purposes, I knew each student’s login information. This was not only a safeguard feature, but also one of practicality. I can’t tell you how many forgot their login information.

6. The content of the Ning is really up to you, the creator and to your members. The sky is the limit!

Alternatives to Gcast

With the unfortunate new price that it costs to use, Jennifer and I have been searching the Internet for alternatives that are free to use. Luckily, we have found two that we like. For those of you unfamiliar with Gcast, it is an online podcast host that allows its users to call in by phone and record a podcast. The podcast is saved to the users account to be edited later if needed or published. Jennifer had been using Gcast with her students to record their book talks. She was going to expand her use of Gcast to her professional development co-teaching class so that the members of the class could record their co-planning session. In search of an alternative solution, we posted a tweet asking for suggestions of similar sites to Gcast. In return, we were referred to and

Here is what we have found to be and not to be useful… seems to offer promise because it allows users to record and publish podcasts through various methods such as uploading your podcast from your computer or calling and recording a podcast from your phone. It is free to use and the number you call to record the podcast is toll free. The later was a huge feature that we considered essential for two reasons: 1) we cannot expect our students to call a long distance number from their home phone and they may not have a cell phone 2) teachers cannot call long distance from the school and to record a co-planning session would possibly use excess minutes on their cell phones. However, Jennifer and I were both unsuccessful at setting up a channel (the location where the podcasts would be stored or featured). Even after referencing the “how to” directions many times, we still could not figure out how to completely set up the account and channel. It was very frustrating and we can normally figure out these types of things (at least together). Needless to say, we will not be using

I liked almost immediately. is much like an online file folder for sharing files. It allows you to upload media, documents, podcasts, pretty much anything you can imagine. It even allowed me to upload a .m4v file that I created and then exported from iMovie. You can “drop” a file by uploading it directly to your folder, emailing it, or calling and recording a voicemail. also provides a number to call if you wish to host a conference call. was very easy to set up and use. When I performed a “test” call, I was surprised how quickly the .mp3 file appeared in the drop. The only set back that we foresaw was the long distance telephone number for the voicemail. allows users to record, create, and share pictures, presentations, etc. Yodio users upload pictures or a presentation and add narration from their computer or by phone. The number users call to record their Yodio is toll free. However, the number the user calls from must be registered with the account being called. Yodio was also very easy to set up and use. One thing that we like about Yodio is the visual component it offers.

We would love to hear of any sites that you use for podcasting or how you use podcasting in your classroom.

Amazon Book Review – 1st Post

After my classes created a book review rubric, it was really important to begin writing their first review. One of my criteria was that they must finish a book before they review it.  While that might not always be necessary, a lot of my students struggle to really describe why they aren’t liking a book.  I get a lot of “It’s boring.”  I am working to try and get them to really understand why they don’t like it, but they aren’t all totally there yet, but that is another problem.

They had to use the rubric to write their rough draft.  We talked about what elements they should include in the review and in what order.  Descriptive words, we decided, needed to be added after the rough draft was completed.  It was a polishing area as opposed to a component of the review.  After they finished their rough draft, they edited it for content and word choice.  I then edited it once more.  I had my students write out the review because they are not able to draft on the computer and polish their writing in the 20 minutes that I have in the computer lab.  There is also no way to save the review to complete at a different time.  

After they had created the review and edited it, we headed into the computer lab.  In order to post on Amazon, you must have a customer account.  Additionally, you must purchase something on the account.  If you purchase a book, you can then delete the payment information and still use the account to post reviews.  I had created screen shots to help students log in.  It is quite a process to login to the account, so there were many steps that they needed to follow.  You can see the login sheets here:  Logging in to Amazon.  

I was very glad that I had the screen shots for my students to use and that they had written their reviews ahead of time.  It took them the full 20 minutes (at least) to get the review entered and edited before publishing.  They were very excited about publishing it to the internet – I was as well.

We posted our first reviews in December and have since posted one more round.  They were able to access the account much faster which meant that they had time to edit their typos.  I am now having them post one review a month.

Note:  You might check your Amazon profile to make sure that is shows the reviews you have posted (or find your review under the book’s information).  I have run into a problem with my account.  None of my reviews had posted after my first test.  I have contacted customer service, but the problem hasn’t been totally fixed yet.  You might not have any issues with this, but it is something to keep an eye on.

2nd Note: 4/1/09 – I figured out the posting issue. When your students enter their review, have them select that they are over 13. This will allow the book review to be posted. This was not a privacy issue as the account they were posting under was Mrs. Duarte’s class, so their names don’t appear anywhere. I have also discovered that if one person writes a book review on The 13th Reality, no one else can post a review on it. That means that each student will have to create a review on a different book. This might be a problem depending on how many students you teach, then again, you can always create multiple accounts.

Amazon Book Reviews – Rubric Creation

Before my students started writing their own book reviews, I wanted to make sure that they knew the target that they needed to aim for – that is what I call a rubric.  We used the same four sections from the book review highlight activity:  who should read this book?, descriptive words, plot, and opinions.  We added three optional categories:  characters, genre, and rating.  After we had each of the topics that they needed to include, we started filling out a rubric together on the overhead.  Since we had created a booktalk rubric together earlier in the year and they had been assessed on the rubric, they were familiar with the possible scores they could receive in each area:  advanced, proficient, partially proficient, unsatisfactory, or no attempt.  We usually fill out the advanced first, then work our way down the scale.  We listen to everyone’s ideas and come to a consensus.  After we create the rough draft, I type up the information, create an overhead and have my classes review the information.  I want to make sure that they agree to everything on the rubric, because that is what they are going to be required to do.

Each of the rubrics look a little different, based on the decisions of each class.  Here is an example that my class came up with:


So, after the creation of the rubric, it was time for them to write their own book review…to be continued.

Slideboom is a place where you can host your PowerPoint presentations or search for presentation that have been uploaded by other users. The website is very easy to use and quickly uploads presentations. Slideboom is a great tool for sharing your presentations with other educators and students. Also, if you create a presentation at home or at school, just upload it to slideboom and you can access it from any location. I hope you find as easy to use and useful as we have. If you would like to look at the presentations we have uploaded, you can find them at Feel free and please download them and modify the presentations to meet the needs of your students.

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