Tag Archives: interactive teaching

Collect data with Google Forms

Google Docs has many uses in the classroom as a tool for creating documents and for collaboration. One of the newer features that Google have introduced is the ability to create web based forms that can collect data directly into a spreadsheet.

The idea behind Google forms is simple. In the Google Docs main page you select ‘New’ and then ‘Form’ from the menu, which takes you to the form editor. There you can enter a title and opening information for your form and begin to create your questions. Google gives you the choice of six types of question and you can mix them as you want in any form.

You continue to add questions until you have finished your form. At that point you save the form. You can embed the form in a website to be completed or you can use the link at the bottom of the form creator to share the webpage of the form. You might want to use a URL shortener to make the address easier.

Here is the address of my completed form

http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?key=pqWdwkQ2SenCigz8XGDgUOA

(and the shortened version is http://memurl.com/mefede)

Here is the same form embeded in the page

You can find out more about Google Docs and Google forms at the website docs.google.com

Multiple email addresses in one

Almost all online tools and web applications not to mention blogs require you to register an account or at least give an email address before you can use them fully. This causes a problem when you want to use one of these services with pupils and they either don’t have their own email addresses or you don’t want them to use their own addresses for whatever reason.

Google Mail provides one option to work around this. If you don’t know anything about Google Mail, it is one of a number of web applications that are provided by Google and are free to use. Google Mail is an email account and webmail program (a bit like hotmail or yahoo mail). Google Mail has several advantages including a large amount of storage space (several gigabytes) and advanced search and filtering capabilities, making it easy to find messages. It is free and straightforward to sign up for a Google Mail account and you can sign up for as many different accounts as you want.

Google Mail is useful in overcoming the requirement for lots of email accounts because once you have signed up for an email address, for example mrtdolan@googlemail.com, you then get more than just the user name ‘mrtdolan’. You can add a ‘+’ to the username and then anything after it and it will be delivered to the same account. So email sent to mrtdolan@googlemail.com, mrtdolan+one@googlemail.com and mrtdolan+two@googlemail.com would all end up in the same place. Although Google Mail treats these as the same account, anywhere else they would be considered different addresses and so could be used separately to sign up for a service multiple times.

For example, say you were setting up a class blog and you wanted each student to have their own login so you could keep track of who wrote what. You could set up a new google account (e.g. mrtdolan08yr10@googlemail.com) and then use varations on that address to sign all your pupils up to the blog, e.g. mrtdolan08yr10+bob@googlemail.com, mrtdolan08yr10+jane@googlemail.com, etc.

Obviously there are always issues to consider when using online tools with students where they have to register for accounts, but by following careful procedures, only using first names, not requiring them to use their own email and having clear rules and guidelines it is possible to make the most of some of the great tools out there.

You can find out more about Google Mail and sign up for an account at mail.google.co.uk

Webcams for showcasing work

Many people have seen or used Webcams for video calling over the internet. Applications such as Skype have made seeing people the other side of the world and talking to them very accessible.

The Webcams that make this possible are simply digital cameras that are capable of recording video and taking still pictures and at a fraction of the cost of other digital cameras.

In the classroom there could be many uses of a webcam. One possible use would be to showcase a pupils work. Instead of trying to hold a piece of work up or describe what it looks like to the class, a webcam can be used to show a live picture of the work that can be projected so that even those at the back can clearly see what you are talking about.

Almost all webcams will come with some software that will allow you to show the image live (often called the preview) on the computer. If you want to you can also capture the picture as a snapshot or as a video that could be saved and shown to the class again later.

If you are buying a webcam try to get a High resolution model of at least 1.3 megapixels. The lower resolution cameras won’t be clear enough to show a good picture when projected on a large screen. I have a basic model and it does the job ok. One of the new 5 MP cameras especially with autofocus would be even better.

You can buy many webcams from Amazon.co.uk as well as computer shops and even larger supermarkets.

Interactive timelines – Mnemograph

I was excited when I first came across Mnemograph (I’m glad I am typing and not pronouncing that) and had a play with the demo. Mnemograph is a web based application that allows you to create visual and interactive timelines.

You add events and enter basic details like dates and locations and then more detailed information and links. The events are then organised into a timeline that you can zoom in and out of and explore. The main timeline view is nicely organised with more information available when you hover over or click on an event. You can create text labels for events or use pictures. It is possible to show two timelines simultaneously above and below the date line. The demo shows this well with a history of the Wright Brothers split into two timelines, one with text labels and the other with pictures.

Mnemograph is currently in beta (still being developed) and doesn’t have a complete feature set yet, but it is already a useful tool. The application is designed to allow easy collaboration on creating timelines and they can be shared easily too. The best way to get a feel for the application is to have a play with the demo and then sign up and try creating your own timeline on the Mnemograph website.

It’s worth looking at the instructions that explain more about the tool and how to use it. They also reveal the origin of the name Mnemograph.

As they say:

Why is it called Mnemograph?
Like many good technology companies, the origin of our name is Greek. Mnemosyne was the personification of memory in Greek mythology. She was the daughter of Gaia and Uranus and, after a nine night stand with Zeus, the mother of the Muses. To be honest, we aren’t terribly happy with the name. It doesn’t seem exactly main stream and is hard to type and pronounce. So, if you have any decent ideas, let us know!

Create interactive games, activities & quizzes with Contentgenerator.net

Most children love playing games and flash based games are very popular. There are lots of educational flash games available and they can be a useful tools in the classroom for reinforcing or revising topics. They can be used with the whole class or for individual pupils on computers.

The problem with the many of the games I find for use with pupils is that they never do quite what I want them to. The questions may not be all on the topic I want or the website they are based on may have too many other distractions that make if difficult for pupils to concentrate on what they should be doing.

A solution to these problems is to make your own games that are based on the questions you want to focus on and that can be run from a school network or a website that you have control over. Unfortunately developing games in flash requires a lot of skill and knowledge that most of us don’t have the time or skills to develop. That is where Contentgenerator.net comes in. Contentgenerator.net provides a series of programs that make it easy to create your own flash games to use with pupils. Many of the programs are commercial, but are priced reasonably, while others are free.

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