Capture Group Feedback with iPhone Dragon Dictation

Iphone-dragon-dictationThis week I've been leading small group sessions with high school teachers focused on "Looking at Student Work." (I'll report back in a blog post later this week). Along the way I've been gathering teacher feedback in written form with the goal of adding some of their comments to the blog post.

Today, during a break between sessions,  I decided to use my iPhone Dragon Dictation program to save me typing out the feedback. I read some teachers' written comments into the program. Within 10 seconds the program turned them into text. I then copied and pasted the text into an iPhone memo. I emailed the memo home to review and edit later. 

Not bad for a free program! 

Already I'm thinking of many other ways to integrate this into instruction and staff development.

Note: The sentence I read to produce the text in screen shot above was "I just used my iPhone "Dragon" dictation program to capture teacher feedback in small group session and convert to text and it worked." Very accurate transcription!

PS. Tomorrow  I plan to let them dictate directly into the iPhone. Saves a step, but I have the feeling it might feel a bit intimidating. I'll let you know.

Wiimote Interactive IR Pen Whiteboard Solution

It's only been just over a year since Johnny Chung Lee's first posted his creative solution for turning a Wii remote into an cheap interactive whiteboard system. Watch Johnny Lee's original IWB video.   

Last week, Stan Merrell and Adam Wilcox - two of my Rochester NY tech buddies, met fellow Rochestarian – Tino Agnitti. Tino has developed a great Wii mounting bracket and IR pen that makes assembling Lee's Wii creation a snap. Tino calls his IR pen "The Groove" it's a sleekly designed, 2nd-generation IR pen that features – Hybrid Activation Tip Switch and Button, Treated LED for better tracking, Vishay TSAL6400. It runs on AAA batteries and it works great. I was especially impressed with its very intuitive interaction with writing applications. Tino also created "The Spot," a mount to connect your Wii remote to a standard tripod with a 1/4" – 20 thread.

Tino sells his Groove/Spot combo for only $39. Spend another $39 for a Wii remote (no need to use the rest of the Wii system) and you have an interactive whiteboard on any flat surface you choose to aim your  LCD. Tino showed me how to  aim the Wii at my monitor and we turned my MacBook into a tablet! 

Software? For PC, Tino recommends Smoothboard produced by Boon Jin Goh, a friend who lives in Singapore.   Tino set me up with the Mac version – Wiimote Whiteboard that I'm running. It comes out of Germany from Uwe Schmidt, a master's student at Darmstadt Technical University.  It was a quick install and it's especially easy to calibrate. For more on the growing wiimote community check out The Wiimote Project Forum  

I'm working on integrating the wiimote system into a portable whiteboard that I can use in my presentations. I'm very excited about pairing it with Prezi – its zooming capabilities will allow me to do exciting nonlinear presentations. 

My buddy Stan Merrell shot our meeting Tino

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!

One to One Computing Goes Global – “Give 1, Get 1”

Xo It turns out that the revolutionary XO, the much-touted “$100 laptop,” costs nearly $200. But for a limited time you can donate one to a third world child and get one free for yourself. Plus T-Mobile is offering donors one year of complimentary HotSpot access good for the XO laptop, and any other WiFi enabled device.  The program is called “Give 1, Get 1,” you pay $400 and One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) donates a laptop to a deserving child.  By Christmas, you get an XO laptop plus an $200 tax deduction.

OLPC states that the goal is:

One learning child. One connected child. One laptop at a time.
The mission of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is to empower the children of developing countries to learn by providing one connected laptop to every school-age child. In order to accomplish our goal, we need people who believe in what we’re doing and want to help make education for the world’s children a priority, not a privilege. Between November 12 and November 26, OLPC is offering a Give One Get One program in the United States and Canada. During this time, you can donate the revolutionary XO laptop to a child in a developing nation, and also receive one for the child in your life in recognition of your contribution. More

David Pogue of the New York Times gives the XO a great review and writes, “it’s a  laptop that’s tough and simple enough for hot, humid, dusty locales; cool enough to keep young minds engaged, both at school and at home; and open, flexible and collaborative enough to support a million different teaching and learning styles.” More plus a video demo 

Better hurry, the program ends November 26 and OLPC says that this is the only time these laptops will be available to the general public.

Is NCLB Narrowing the Curriculum?

A recent report by the Center on Education Policy entitled Is NCLB Narrowing the Curriculum? notes that since the passage of the NCLB, 71 percent of the nation’s 15,000 school districts have reduced the hours of instructional time spent on history, music and other subjects to make more time for reading/language arts and/or math. Twenty-seven percent of the districts reported reduced instructional time in social studies. Twenty-two reported cuts in science and twenty percent reported similar cuts in art /music. I guess the thinking is – if a subject is not tested, why teach it? Or perhaps they think that reading, writing and ‘rithmetic can only happen in English or math class.

Of course these shifts in instruction fall most heavily on low performing students. As if being a struggling learner is not punishment enough, increasing numbers are pulled out of classes that offer hands-on learning and outlets for their creativity. What awaits them is likely “drill and kill’ that doesn’t sound like much fun for students or their teachers.  Daily reading, writing and application of math should be common to every class. Let music students explore the mathematical elements of rhythm and then journal what they had learned.

Educational decision makers haven’t got the news that new technologies have spawned an explosion in creativity that could be harnessed to engage and support learners. They could take a lesson from the folks in Hollywood who are using innovative techniques to shore up the declining youth film audience. New Line Cinema is tapping into the creativity of their audience to promote their new film “Take the Lead” starring Antonio Banderas as a professional dancer who volunteers to teach NYC school kids all the moves. 

The Take the Lead  website includes a do-it-yourself music video maker. The viewer gets to select from a variety of images and sound styles and create their own movie trailer. They can enter it to win free stuff – like iPods. More importantly to the filmmakers – viewers can email their digital “mash-up” to friends to show off their emerging skills a music video auteur. Viral marketing at work.

Smothering struggling readers with remedial classes isn’t the answer. Instead educators might want to talk with designers of the “Take the Lead” music video maker. They said, “the goal is to encourage consumers to make a proactive decision to engage with the content… You can’t force-feed younger movie goers with traditional top down advertising…it’s all about giving these kids our trailers, our songs and letting them take control… our assets become their assets and that’s how they become fans of the movie.” Going Unconventional to Market Movies, NY Times 4.6.06

Glad to see that someone knows that engagement beats drill and kill.

For an update on this theme click here.

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