Tag Archives: tech tools

Tech Review: Thinglink

Thinglink is a tech tool that my inner librarian loves! Who doesn’t love the idea of embedding information inside images, it’s all the fun of digital libraries and metadata without having to know how to catalog. (yes, my geek flag is waving high).  Also, it allows us to create a polished interactive poster that doesn’t look tacky (unlike glogster…don’t hate me).

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I’ve used it for a variety of projects over the past two years. With our Social Studies classes, we’ve made Africa thinglinks on regions of Africa. Our 6th grade science classes embedded different types of clouds in a sky with descriptions of each type of cloud.  With our learning support classes, we’ve created thinglinks about simple machines and states. I’m amazed how much the students enjoy
creating them.

I like that since the students are embedding information in an image, they have to reflect and decide what image would be the best to create. Then they can begin curating websites that would be good to link onto the main image. I’ve found it’s best to give them a checklist for different types of media (websites, images, youtube videos, facts with no media).

There are a few disadvantages to thinglink. When students insert a website, it autogenerates a description. If you’re a teacher creating a webquest, you are normally able to adjust the descriptions to go along with your activity. If you are a student, they have a tendency to leave the computer generated description and that shows a lack of effort and creativity. I know I had the really remind my kids about adjusting the description. The free version doesn’t let you insert pictures easily anymore (it’s possible, but sometimes not worth the effort).

Right now I am taking a class on making hyperdocs. My mind always wraps around how students can make things, but it didn’t occur to me to use this tool as a launchpad for webquests, multimedia text sets, and other activities. It’s been interesting to brainstorm other applications for this tool. I’ve also been looking at thinglinks made by others to see if I can use them in my instruction. There’s a lot of potential in this, and I’m excited to see how it develops as a resource for educators.

VR Tech Review: King Tut VR

While our reading teachers were enjoying nonfiction selections about the pyramids, we decided to have our students use the King Tut VR app.
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This app takes you into Tutankhamun’s tomb, gives you a view of not only the mask, but the hieroglyphics in the tomb. Narration gives students a chance to realize the meaning behind these symbols.

Visually, this app is pretty nice. Not as fancy as the Nearpod 360 views or Random 42, but it meets it’s purpose and it more polished that other cardboard apps. But the simplification of hieroglyphics make it easier to for the students to see.

This app steers you toward what it is talking about. The kids may not like this, but as an instructor I love that it keeps them on task.

king-tut

From a classroom management standpoint, this app made me nervous. The app is not as powerful without the narration. It is very hard to get students to start the app at the same time. The reading teacher and I made the decision to to let the students all listen to the narration at the same time (it was a little loud and chaotic). It went much better than expected. We polled the students on their opinions on it, and they thought it wasn’t overwhelming. They are very good about listening to the ground rules of VR, (butts stay in chairs, listening ears stay on, and be careful with the ipods). The calm narration and quiet background music makes it so this app works with a crowd, but that is not the case for every app. We are lucky to have students who understand that we are feeling out the boundries of this technology and give honest and respectful feedback.

An iPod issue that we learned was with the sleep feature. The iPods were set to sleep after 2 minutes of no interaction with the screen. When we tested it, it would have a black screen just as our teachers got excited about it. To save time, we had our first class to use the app go into settings and set it so it wouldn’t go to sleep.

For more information about the app: https://www.eonreality.com/portfolio-items/king-tut/

Tech Review: Cedar Point VR

Our science classes were studying force and motion, and were looking for something new to add to their lessons. We decided to try Cedar Point’s VR app that previews their roller coaster “The Valravn.”

roller-coaster

The kids loved it! We started by showing them what they would ride. We rode the ride and used information from the ride’s wikipedia page to calculate different aspects of force and motion.

For students (and librarians) who are prone to motion sickness, the google cardboard interface is not as disorienting as higher end models. The kids are good at knowing what works best for them, (to use glasses/not use glasses if they have vision issues or when to stop because it makes them dizzy)

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In other apps, students get distracted by bystanders. This app has you riding the roller coaster by yourself. You are able to see the scenery and enjoy the full experience.

My only complaint is that the ride doesn’t start you facing forward. It is already oriented to start a certain direction. The app starts by looking at the start button, and they don’t realize that they can look around. We adapted quickly, but I felt bad for the kids that were new to VR and didn’t look around.

VR App Review: Random 42

We were lucky enough to get a set of Virtual Reality Headsets and a set of ipods. Now that the ipods are imaged, we’ve begun our foray into education VR.

Our first lesson was an introduction to cells with a learning support science class using Random 42. Students watched the simulation, and we discussed what we saw.

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The Random 42 app is designed for medical professionals, so educators can only access the free demo, but the demo is visually stunning with excellent narration. The demo goes through several situations that are easy to connect to the PA Core standards (we talked about the fact that everything is made of cells, organelles, cells reproduction). We were able to have a great discussion on concepts that are abstract in a method that is concrete.

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From a technical standpoint, this app is not webbased, so it will work even if they wifi is being cranky. If you are going to start with a VR app, I would recommend this one because it is less likely to have technical issues and will wow students and teachers alike.

I understand that this is geared toward the medical community, but I hope that they will expand into education because they have such a solid, beautiful product.

 

 

 

Tech Review: Ghostery

Are you concerned about your digital footprint? Are you worried about clicking on click-bait and people getting access to your cookies? Ghostery is the tool for you!

ghostery

Ghostery is a browser extension that allows you to track who is tracking you! You can block all trackers, or you can select certain trackers to allow (like twitter widgets and wordpress stats). This browser extension is user friendly and operates in the background without being a distraction.

I’ve been using ghostery for 3 years, I love the fact that I have control over who is watching my internet usage. Librarians are all about transparancy, and this tool encourages users to be more thoughtful in their internet search habits. Some websites can have 20+ trackers.

Every time you open a website, it tells you how many sites are tracking you and tells you what trackers. Some folks block all trackers, others will customize it so some websites can gather statistical data.

How to make a library instagram without a smartphone…

Many of our teens are on instagram, so our school library took the leap and created an instagram page.

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The only downside is that instagram will not let you run your account only on the computer…you need a mobile device. (or so they want you to think). Every teacher has their line in the sand. Mine was that I wanted my device to be used for my personal account…not my work account. So I did some digging. What I found was a program called gramblr. This is a program that will post to your instagram and allow you to schedule posts.

gramblr

This program is available for free online and will download to your desktop. It will ask for your instagram login. So far I’ve been using it for 2 months and haven’t had issues.

Before you decide if your library should join a social network, there are a few things you should do.

Check your school/library social media policy

Our district has a social media policy, so I made sure to read it to make sure I am in compliance. I make sure that I have no students in my pictures. I may have the students involved in the planning process for posts, but I don’t have time to go through paperwork to see who is allowed to be in pictures and who isn’t.

It’s amazing when you have kids plan a social media post. They are very good about thinking about

  • the goal of the post
  • how it will be recieved
  • how they can creativly get their message across without putting a human in the photo
  • using their resources
  • if their work can be featured in the post

Having students help plan the instagram account is a great incentive for students who are done early and want to help.

 

Have a plan of what content will be featured

When I pitched this idea to my principal, I had been running a library related facebook page, and had some ideas of what type of content would be good for our library. I also had a clear idea of our audience.

We were given some mounts, and I decided to give them personalities and make them online celebrities that make book recommendations. I also feature photos of displays, maker stuff, and displays from our museum. Knowing the type of content makes it an easier sell to administrators, and will put their fears at ease.

 

Make sure your boss is in the loop

Make sure that your instagram page aligns with district and building goals. Your principal will know if this is a good fit for your library or not.

Decide how you want to promote it

I am a HUGE fan of the soft push when you promote a crazy new program (It’s how I started my Maker Program and I have NO Regrets). I told students slowly to try and get them to do some grassroots advertising. I started it close to the end of the school year. In the new school year, I hope to continue to use it to promote reading and library activites.

Tech Review: Geoguessr

Looking for a game that tests awareness of  inference skills, biology, and geography? Look no further, because geoguessr is the game for you!

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Geoguessr uses Google Street view to place you at a random place in the world.You then have to guess where you are, with the goal of trying to get as close as possible.

geoguessr

Students use context clues to guess where they are at. They can guess what biome they are in, what language is on the street signs, what side of the road the cars drive on, what plants are around, and weather.

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One thing that has been eye opening has been what other parts of the world look like. We may think that a location would be in America or England, and it turns out that it’s somewhere in South America. It is amazing how many places are similar and how our stereotypical ideas of different countries are not what these places look like. When I first started playing, I was amazed how wrong I with most of the questions.

Our science and social studies teachers have been having so much fun with this game! We’ve used it as a productive time filler for after labs and other activities, and it’s amazing to listen to the student’s thought process when they are guessing. The critical thinking skills they are using, while they are thinking they are playing a game are incredible.