Build Literacy Skills with Wordle

I've always been interested in quantitative displays of information. I've been having lots of fun with Wordle – a free website that creates "word clouds" (or "tag clouds") for text analysis. Simply copy/paste text and in seconds Wordle gives you a visual representation of word frequency. The example below was created by analyzing all the words used in my blog in 2008. Click the screen shots below to enlarge.
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While you can directly type into the Wordle text box, I would recommend you copy and past text into it. That allows you to get text directly from online sources or your own text document. Student can either work on their individual Wordles or collaborate together on one. In the later case, it's probably most efficient to gather all their writing into one text document before copy/pasting it into a Wordle. Use tilde sign to create phrases. Example: learning~strategies. Another tip: After you create a Wordle, right click a term to remove it from the Wordle results. 

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The site allows you to modify the color scheme, font, alignment and even set the maximum number of words to include in the analysis (example top 100 words, top 50 words, etc) For inspiration on layout see these Wordle samples at Flickr

Wordle output – If you PDF generating software, you can "print" a Wordle to a PDF file. Or you can do a screen capture of the Wordle. Do live Wordles on your smartboard. For a how-to on screenshots click here.

So how could your students use Wordle?
Defining  skills – Before the dictionary comes out, give your students a new vocabulary word and ask them to brainstorm all the word they associate with it. Gather up all the brainstormed words for a Wordle. After the term has been formally defined, repeat the process and compare to the "pre-dictionary" Wordle.

Summarizing skills – As a pre-reading exercise – copy/paste text of reading into  a Wordle and ask students to predict what the main ideas of the reading will be. Another pre-reading option – give them a Wordle of a non-fiction reading and ask them to use the Wordle to generate a title or headline before they see the real article. Post reading – ask them to reflect on the reading based on a prompt (examples – main idea, what you've learned, funniest element, etc). Then collect all their reflections into a Wordle.

Comparison skills – Give them two different accounts / essays on the same theme / event – let them compare the Wordles generated by each. Or you could generate Wordles for two different reading – then let student see if they can match the Wordle to it's corresponding reading.

I've been collaborating with fellow educators on a Google Doc guide to using Wordle in the classroom

Creating Presentation Handouts in Apple Keynote

I'm a recovering PowerPoint user that's been using Apple Keynote for my presentations for about a year. I find it much friendlier to graphics and media. It took me a while to figure out how to create B/W six slide / page handouts that I could easily PDF to clients. Thought I'd pass it along. If you have any more suggestions, let me know! 

PS. I use the Mac native pdf creation tools (too cheap to buy Adobe Acrobat for my Mac). For this illustration I'm working with a 108 slide Keynote presentation with lots of graphics. 

Step 1: I open my Keynote handout presentation. I select File/ Print. Keynote defaults to Keynote in drop down box – I select "Layout."

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Step 2: In the "Pages Per Sheet" box, I choose 6. Note: This "Pages per Sheet" choice doesn't appear on the default "Keynote" print screen.
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Step 3: I click "PDF" button in lower left and chose "Save as PDF" This gives me a color pdf – 6 slides per page. In the sample I'm working on, I have now created a 16 MB PDF file.

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Now my goal is to convert to gray scale (for the client to photocopy) and to reduce the file size.

Step 4: Open the newly created PDF  handout in Apple Preview. I choose "File/Save As… "

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In the "Quartz Filter"  selection box, I choose "Gray Tone." I save that new gray tone PDF. Nice looking handout, but I have greatly increased the file size. (from 16 to 103 MB). Too big to send to the client!

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Step 5: I open the newly created Gray Tone version of the pdf in Preview and do another "Save As…" Just like in step 4. This time in the  "Quartz Filter" selection box, I choose "Reduce File Size." That creates a new PDF with file size reduced from 103 MB to 5.7 MB (Even smaller than 16 MB color PDF I created in step 3)

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Since I am usually sending of lots of handouts to multiple clients. I have another blog devoted to distributing them. That way I can email a link to my "Handout Blog"  and let them deal with downloads at their end.

Hope this helps!

Your Students Will Never Be Late for Class Again

Like all teachers, I struggled for years with tardy students – “But Mr. Pappas, I had to stop at my locker!” Then I took a lesson from fellow teacher – Tom O’Brien, the art teacher in the classroom next door. Tom had it figured out, and here’s what he taught me.

Stand at the door between classes and greet each individual student by name with a handshake as they walk in the room. It guarantees that every day you’ll have a positive connection with every one of your students. Student having a bad day?  Find our before they act out in class.  When the bell rings, the door closes and you promptly begin class. Students quickly realize if they are late, they don’t get a personal greeting. Try it  – it works!

image credit flickr/Earls37a

Students Can Create Videos to Teach Us “How To”

There’s an emerging genre of internet videos that fall into the category of “how to’s.” Lots of folks are offering up instructional guides for how to do everything imaginable from How to Chill a Coke in 2 Minutes to How to Fold a Towel.

Explaining “how to” requires students to research a subject, evaluate what’s important, and create a guide for someone else to follow. It gives them an opportunity to write for an authentic audience and purpose and use skills that rank very high on Bloom’s taxonomy.

If you want to get your students writing and shooting these videos here’s some suggestions:

1. Get the new Flip Ultra video camera – remarkably easy to use and only $114 at Amazon. Works with Mac or PC. I’ve been using one for a few months and I’m impressed with the sound and image quality and the simplicity of use.

2. Have students take a look at this ingenious “how to” done by Common Craft – no elaborate props or on-screen talent required. The Flip camera won’t be able to shoot as closely as the Common Craft video below, but students can easily recreate the look on a larger scale using the classroom white board and the optional Flip Ultra tripod ($14 at Amazon).

3. Post the video to TeacherTube – a safe alternative to YouTube.

OK – time to make a movie!

Note on editing. The Flip video comes with its own software that works with Mac or PC. Ingeniously, the software resides on the camera and works anytime you plug the Flip USB into a computer.� The Flip video files are created in an AVI format that can be edited on a PC using software like MovieMaker. Mac iMovie won’t accept the Flip video AVI format directly, but you can convert an AVI file to a (iMovie-friendly) m4v file format using free iSquint software. Students can design, shoot and edit the video, then do a voice over. That way they can focus on the visual message separately from the audio message.

8/08 Update: The latest version of Flip video software will allow direct import of files into Mac iMovie!

Using Apple Keynote with TurningPoint Audience Response System

For many years I've used TurningPoint (TP) ARS in my presentations using PC PowerPoint. I'm a convert to Keynote from PowerPoint and I figured out a way to use TP along with Apple Keynote (KN) presentations.  I thought I'd share my work-around with others.

Software and equipment:
I make two presentations – a Keynote talk and a PowerPoint for Mac with TP questions.  Since I usually work with large audiences and move around a lot, I needed a solution that did not force me to stay at my laptop. I run the show on my MacBook using a Keyspan Presentation Pro Remote (PR-Pro3 $79). I have programed the remote to run both shows and serve as an application switcher. I switch between the two programs and the system has worked very well. I now use the graphic power of Keynote and the audience engagement of TurningPoint!

Presentations: Make a KN presentation. Make a PPT question slide show with TP questions.

System PreferencesScreenSnapz002 Laptop settings: Open System preferences / Keyboard and Mouse. Set the mouse tracking to slow. Set secondary button to application switcher. (Note: you will only get these choices is you are using have an Apple wireless mouse and turn it on.

Controls on the Keyspan remote:Prpro3_ext01_r_hi
You will be using three sets of controls. Listed in order starting at the top of the remote.
1. Left and right mouse – Use the left mouse as you normally would – to select. Your MacBook system preferences setting have converted your right mouse to an application switcher.
2. Mouse track button – use to move the mouse
3. Right and left triangles – use to advance either the PPT or Keynote presentation. Also use to navigate between programs when you are in application switcher mode.

Using the remote to make your presentation.
1. Open both the KN and  TP/ PPT presentations in presentation modes. Close all other programs.

2. I'll assume you begin the presentation in KN. Advance the show using the right triangle. When you are ready for your first TP question, press the Keyspan's right mouse. Your open applications will appear as icons over the top of the KN presentation. Use the right / left triangles to navigate to the PPT icon. Press the Keyspan right mouse a second time and PPT will open in presentation mode.

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