Tag Archives: tools

10 Free Tools for Building Blended & Online Learning

As internet connections improve and costs of classroom hours increase, it’s becoming increasingly important to offer some form of blended or totally online materials to enhance courses.

In this posting I’ll introduce some useful free and freemium tools that can enable any teacher to start creating content for online delivery.

You can find more tools like these in Digital Tools for Teachers

1. Perusallhttps://perusall.com/

PerusallThis tool enables teachers to build onto more traditional course book based courses and add a blended element. Once you have created an account you can upload PDF documents and add them to courses. You then give your students a code to register on the course and they can access the texts, make notes and annotate the text and build discussions around them. The site also generates a ‘confusion report’  which can show you where they are struggling or having problems with the text. You can deal with the problems in the next class. When you register as a teacher you need to tell the site which school you teach at. You can try a live demo of a course to see how it works at: https://app.perusall.com/demo

2. NowCommenthttps://nowcomment.com/

NowCommentThis is a very similar tool to Perusall, but it’s completely free. and works around any web based text. You can create classes and groups and add students to them and then create and assign texts from the internet as reading activities. You then create questions and comments linked to specific parts of the text which your students engage with as they read. This enables you to create an online dialogue around the text and get your students sharing and exploring their views around the text.

3. Teachablehttps://teachable.com

TeachableYou can use Teachable to create and sell your own online courses. There isn’t much in the way of interactive exercise types available, but you can add videos text and allow comments. There is a built in payment system so this takes a lot of the headaches out of getting started. Teachable take 10% if you are working with a free account. If you find that you are selling a lot of courses you can switch to a paid account with a fixed fee to reduce the charges. This is a great way to start becoming an independent course designer.

4. CourseLabhttp://www.courselab.com/view_doc.html

CourseLabCourseLab has been around for a while now and is a free tool for authoring your own interactive digital content. You don’t need any coding skills, just use the drag and drop editor to create a wide range of multimedia interactive activities. This really is quite a powerful tool capable of designing a wide range of quite complex interactive activity types that include context specific feedback and a number of other features like scoring and timing, but there is quite a steep learning curve when you firs start using it. If you want to get serious about building complex online courses then it worth putting in the time. The activities it generates comply to the SCORM standard so you can import them into Moodle or any other standard compliant LMS.

5. DocentEduhttp://docentedu.com/

This is a great tool to start creating web based materials. You’ll need to have a Google account and   use it to sign up. Then you can use the Chrome extension to build interaction around webpages or documents. You can add videos from YouTube to enhance content or you can add discussion, questions or insights. You can make up to 5 activities for free, after that you have to sign up for an account, but it is reasonably cheap. There is also a schools option.

6. Edhttp://www.edapp.com/

Ed LMSEd is a really impressive course creation and LMS tool for creating highly interactive and touch responsive learning content for mobile devices. It has been designed to work on both iOS and Android devices and produces media rich learning activities. You can drop in video, images, text or audio and create a really wide range of interactions around them. Many of the activity types are ideal for developing communication skills. On the free trial account you can create up to 10 lessons. After that you have to pay per user per month, so this is a great tool to create commercial learning materials, but you have to make sure you will be generating some income.

7. Kotobeehttps://www.kotobee.com

KotobeeThis is a completely free authoring tool you can download to create interactive ebooks for delivery on either Android or iOS tablets. The tool goes beyond just creating a ebook, you can add quite a range of interactions to your books as well as video and audio files, so this is a great tool for creating a genuinely digital etextbook. As well as running on tablets the ebooks and activities you create can also be exported to the computer desktop or exported as native apps for Android or iOS (You’ll need to have Apple or Google developer accounts to do this.) This is a great tool for the truly digital classroom.

8. Close Test Creatorhttp://l.georges.online.fr/tools/cloze.html

Cloze Test CreatorThis is a very simple tool that enables you to instantly create cloze test activities based around any text. Just copy and paste a text from any site or document into the main field and click on submit. You can produce either plain text cloze tests or interactive ones. The site will also allow you to choose the types of words that are extracted from the text, so you can for example just remove articles or prepositions. When an interactive cloze has been created you can type in the missing words and the site will highlight the words in red if they are incorrect. The activities this tool creates can’t be saved, so there is no copyright infringement, but that also means that you can’t create and distribute the activities to multiple students. You can show students how to use the tool to create their own revision tests though, so it’s still very useful and works well on an interactive whiteboard.

9. Gnomiohttps://www.gnomio.com/

GnomioThis is a free hosting service that enables you to create your own free Moodle installation. Once you have created your platform you can build multiple classes and courses with a really wide range of interactions including a plugin for the http://bigbluebutton.org/ synchronous webinar platform. This is a great service that could enable you to create your own online school to deliver lessons or training. The free version of the site does carry some advertising, but for a small monthly or yearly payment you can get the ads removed.

10. Expertise.TVhttps://expertise.tv/

ExpertiseTVThis is a great tool if you want to start making money by training or mentoring online. It has everything you need to set up, sell and deliver a complete mentoring service including lead capture and a video conferencing and webinar platform. It’s also free, but if you do start selling courses or training sessions then the site keeps a small percentage of what you make. Unlike many webinar type platforms there’s no whiteboard or presentation space so it’s more like an enhanced version of Skype, but you can build you own landing page and develop a community on the site. There are lots of video tutorials to tell you more at: https://expertise.tv/content/Quick-Start-Videos

I hope you find one or two of these tools useful for creating your own courses or content. Remember though that finding the right tool is important, but how you structure and design interaction with the content is way more important. Taking classroom activities and materials and placing them on a web-based  platform and expecting them to work is sure way to disappoint students. You need to think carefully about how the student will engage with the materials and how the materials relate to each other to ensure that your materials don’t just test the students’ knowledge and abilities, but that they guide and enable the student to hypothesise and make and confirm deductions in order to encourage deeper levels of autonomous learning.

You can find more tools like these in Digital Tools for Teachers

Save

Tools for creating polls and surveys

Any internet search will show that there are a huge number of online tools available for the creation on polls and surveys. The ones included here are some of the best I have used and show some of the variety of polling tools available.

You can find more tools like these in Digital Tools for Teachers

SurveyMonkeyhttps://www.surveymonkey.com/

SurveyMonkeySurveyMonkey is a freemium product and one of the online survey tools that has been around for the longest. Using a free subscription you can produce surveys with up to 10 questions and collect up to 400 hundred responses. This is likely to be enough for the vast majority of student created surveys. It’s pretty easy to use, you just drag and drop the types of question you want to use and then edit the parameters to add the text for the questions and possible answer alternatives. It’s also very easy to export the data you collect from the surveys and analyse the answers. It does look a bit dated though compared to many of the newer survey tools and it doesn’t have very attractive design templates.

Google Formshttps://docs.google.com/forms

Google-formsIf you are a Google user Google Forms is a great and very simple to use free tool for creating surveys. You can choose a simple template or start from a blank one and choose from a reasonable selection of question types including text input. Google have also made it very simple to integrate video from YouTube and search for and add images. The surveys can be customised quite simply by adding background images and different designs and there doesn’t seem to be any limit to the number of response you can collect. Google Forms are also mobile adaptive so you don’t have to worry if you are working in classes where students use a range of different devices.

Typeformhttps://www.typeform.com/

This is a really powerful survey creator and one of the most user friendly ones I’ve tried. It works on a freemium model which limits the number of templates you can use on a free subscription, but if you are happy with limited design options that won’t be a problem. There is a really wide range of questions types to choose from and you can just drag and drop these onto your survey template. Typeform also offers good support for images and media, so if you want to add videos from YouTube or upload images Typeform would be a good option.

Triciderhttp://www.tricider.com/

TriciderThis is one of the survey tools I use most often and it’s a great tool for exploring the pros and cons around a particular problem and really pulling in ideas from the survey recipients. You simply add a single question or problem and then users can add ideas for solving the problem. They can also add the pros and cons of each idea and then vote for the ones they like the best. The data the survey produces can be hard to analyse, though the voting part is quite straight forward. It’s a great tool to use in class, because it’s very simple and quick to create the survey and students can exchange surveys easily and get instant results. To find out more about how to use Tricider read my article – Crowdsourcing Knowledge with Students.

AnswerGardenhttps://answergarden.ch/

AnswergardenThis is a great tool for very simple surveys that just require a simple text input. It’s great for brainstorming words related to [topic] or how do you feel about [topic]. The answers can also be exported to Wordle which creates a colourful word cloud of the answers showing the most popular options at larger sizes. WordleIt’s also a great tool for use in the classroom because the site automatically generates a QR code for each survey so students can quickly scan the survey onto their phones and answer immediately. To find out more about how to use AnswerGarden read my article – Brainstorming and polling with AnswerGarden.

I hope these survey tools are useful. Surveys play a very important role in the development of digital literacy and are an integral part of my 10 Lessons in Digital Literacy book.

You can also find variety of  tools like these in Digital Tools for Teachers

Save

Save

Online Tools and Resources for Teaching Young Learners

This is the slidedeck from the workshop I delivered for the British Council ‘Technologies and Classrooms’ summer school for teachers in Lithuania in June 2016.

It focuses on a range of tools and resources that teachers can use to support the language development of their younger learners.

There is a strong focus on on technologies that enable students to be creative in their use of language.

I hope you find the slide-deck useful. The images are linked to the sites and examples so please do download it and follow up on some of the links.

Download my ebooks for teachers:

Best wishes

Nik Peachey

Kotobee – The ultimate free epublishing tool

multiplatformI’ve been a long time fan of Apple’s iBooks Author. It’s great for producing interactive books and lesson materials for the iBook Store or to export as PDF for other platforms, but more recently I’ve become frustrated with the inability to publish interactive books for other platforms particularly Android and Windows.

I tried a number of tools but just wasn’t satisfied until I found Kotobee Author. Like iBooks Author it is free to download, but it will run on most platforms so you don’t have to be a Mac owner to use it, but what’s really great about Kotobee is its ability to export to so many different formats and platforms.

How do you use Kotobee Author?

When you first download Kotobee it looks pretty much like any other WYSIWYG editor, but it has so many more great features.

Kotobee-textYou start by setting up your book structure and adding a cover image in the left side. This is simple to do, just write in the names of the chapter titles and click image editor to add a cover.

You can then add subsections to each chapter and start typing or copy paste in your text. You format the text as you would with any other text editor and it’s easy to change fonts, styles and add tables.

Kotobee-interactionThe real fun starts though with the right hand column of the editor. This is where you can start to add media such as images, audio, video and 3D objects and different types of interaction.

Kotobee-multiple-choiceThere are three different standard types of interactive questions that can be used within the Kotobee books. These are multiple choice, true false and multiple select. The questions are very configurable so you can add in feedback depending on students responses and also add in images to the questions types.

If you want to take a more professional approach to building in interactivity Kotobee supports a number of widgets as well as html5 content.

Kotobee-experienceOnce you have completed the content of your book the next step is to customise how your readers will be able to interact with the book. Again there are lots of option here to really enhance the way the reader experiences the book, such as text-to-speech, adding annotations copying parts to their clipboard and sharing through social media.

Kotobee-exportFor me the real surprise comes when you have finished your book and you want to export it.  You can export your book into most of the standard word processing formats such as Word, PDF, Epub and .mobi, but can also export it as a desktop application, enable it to run on an LMS such as Moodle and make it a tracked part of of a course, or make it into a web based application that you can upload to a server.

Creating a mobile app

Kotobee-mobileKotobee books can also be exported as iOS, Android or Windows native apps and sold within their relative market places. For this you would need to have your own account on those platforms and there is a charge from Kotobee, but they will also help you get your app through the approval process and that can save you a considerable amount of time.

Creating a digital library

Kotobee-libraryOne of the final options Kotobee offers is the ability to create your own library for your students and add books to that library. This is a great option for schools that want to go completely digital with their course materials and books and the library can be branded for each individual school.

What I like about Kotobee
  • I think it’s a great free tool that’s quite quick and easy to learn.
  • It’s great to be able to export to so many different formats, especially if you work in a BYOD environment.
  • Adding media and interaction is very simple so teachers could use Kotobee to create digital worksheets for classroom use or as interactive homework assignments.
  • Kotobee offers a lot of great ways to manage your content once it’s been produced.

Basically I think this is a great tool for both the individual teacher to create interactive materials or for a school that wants to get away from paper course materials and move into the digital age.

Edorble – A 3D Virtual Classroom

Edorble-auditoriumI’ve been interested in 3D virtual worlds for teaching since I first worked in Second Life designing courses back in 2007. I’ve always believed that they could add a really valuable dimension to online learning and help students to overcome the sense of isolation that often leads students to lose motivation and drop out of online courses.

I was delighted when I first saw Edorble because I felt it offered the opportunity for any teacher to set up their own 3D virtual classroom and start teaching online for free.

How do you create a 3D virtual classroom?

The process of claiming your Edorble Online classroom is quite simple.

Edorble-claimGo to: http://edorble.com/ and click on Claim World. This will take you to a sign up page. There you can register with your email address or one of your social media accounts.

You will then need to download the Edorble application. Also make a note of your code. This is the unique number that helps you and your students to enter your room.

Edorble-enterOnce you have downloaded the app you simply open it (you might have to check for updates) then you should see the entrance to your private 3D world.

Before entering you can click on the cog in the lower left corner to open the admin panel. This allows you to see the instructions for how you move around the world, put up your hand, sit down extra.

You can also change some of the settings that effect the performance of the world. You can set the video screen to fast if you are running an older computer on a slower internet connection. This will make the world less detailed and beautiful, but it will save on processor power and bandwidth.

Edorble-avatarOnce you click the arrow to enter the world you’ll be able to do some minimal customisation on your avatar and add your name. once that’s done you are ready to go, so just click the arrow and tick.

Once you are in the world you can just click on the place you want your avatar to move to, so no need to use arrow keys. You can then start to explore the various parts of your world.

edorble-videoThere is a great auditorium with a whiteboard screen. You can upload documents from Dropbox, Google Docs or watch videos from YouTube here and share them with your students and read through or watch together. If you have accounts on Zaption or Blendspace you can access any video based materials you have created there. You can also access websites and search the internet.

Edorble-group-workThere are a number of breakout areas around the Edorble world that students can go to to do group or pair work and they also have access to various screens to work on. These screens can also be used to access simple online whiteboards so you can get students to draw and write on them.

Edorble-websiteOf course all of this is great, but the best part of Edorble is that students can stroll around and communicate freely much as they would in a physical space. Edorble is a great addition to any online course and can be used to add a social element or for instruction or group or project work. Your virtual classroom is always open so you don’t have to be there for students to access the world, they can meet there autonomously.

Things to be aware of
  • Make sure that the first time students use the world they will need to download and install it and it may take a bit longer to update and load.
  • Reinforce with your students that they must wear headphones and if possible use and external microphone, not the one built into their laptop. This will help everyone get the best sound quality. People who use onboard microphones and speakers will cause a lot of feedback and background noise for other users.
Things I like about Edorble
  • One of the great things about Edorble is that audio is proximity sensitive so it can be set up so that students don’t hear each other unless they reasonably close together.
  • Edorble was designed and is being developed specifically for education.
  • You get your own private world so students should be safe there and you don’t have any of the problems associated with Second Life.
  • You can switch back the detail and enable Edorble to run on more limited connectivity.
  • You can have groups of up to 100 students in the world at the same time.
How does Edorble stay free?

Edorble-worldWe all know that any company, even educational ones need to make money and generate income from somewhere. Edorble generates income from creating white-label worlds so that schools can have their own branded classrooms and from building bespoke worlds that can be anything you can imagine.  So do get in touch with Edorble if you’d like a custom-built online world for your students.

Read  Q & A with Edorble CEO Gabe Baker to find out more about the background and future of Edorble.

Q & A with Wizer CEO Nira Mayorchik Sheleg

wizer-logo

Wizer is a fantastic free tool for creating simple digital worksheets that enable learners and teachers to do some pretty complex things.  When I first discovered the tool a few months back I was really impressed by how easy it was to create really engaging blended learning content for class or homework, so it’s great to be able to publish this Q & A with Nira Mayorchik Sheleg the Co-founder & CEO.

When and why did you start Wizer?

Auto Feedback WizerI founded Wizer two and a half years ago. I have dual passions: education and technology, but I noticed teachers were not being well served by the technology industry. Most of the edtech solutions are clunky, rigid and uninspiring. I wanted to build something that would delight and inspire, something that would make teachers’ job easier and more effective. So I went back to my academic research on teacher cognition and found that all learning content can be broken down into a set of core elements. We set out to build a tool that would let teachers build their own digital learning content in a familiar and intuitive way.

What’s your elevator pitch?

Wizer is every teacher’s bridge to edtech; an easy way to update teaching materials and strategies to maximize the use of technology in teaching. The open platform lets teachers create and share their own original digital teaching resources.

Who is your ideal customer?

Any teacher, school, district or organization that wants to embrace technology in teaching.

You have a great collection of interactions that teachers can embed into their worksheets including fill the gaps, matching exercises, open questions and even audio recording, so what are you planning for the future?

wizer-tasks

In the near future we will be releasing: matching questions, partial points for questions and feedback for each individual question. We release updates and new features on an ongoing basis.

As a former language teacher, the audio recording activity sound really interesting to me. Could you explain how that works and how teachers can use it?

Wizer AudioWe originally designed the feature for students requiring text be read out loud to accommodate their learning needs. We wanted teachers to be able to easily record themselves reading a text out loud and have it available on-demand for any student. Then we discovered language, music and teachers of very young learners were also using the feature in interesting ways, for example:

  • Listening comprehension: Recite audio text, then ask students to answer questions.
  • Improving reading: Add audio file so students can listen to text as they read.
  • Vocabulary and pronunciation: Pronounce new vocabulary words and recite examples of how they are used in sentences
  • Spelling: Recite words and ask students to spell them in the answer box. Great way to prepare for spelling assessments.
  • Accommodating auditory learners: Recite written texts, questions, answer choices.
  • Music instruction and practice: Teacher can record notes, scales or phrases of music to help teach and assess, For example, record a chord and ask student to write the name of the chord.
  • Keyboarding: Add audio recordings of spoken passages and ask students to keyboard the text.You can make a series of Wizer that gradually present longer, more difficult passages and increasing speeds.
What LMS features does Wizer have?

Wizer currently tracks time spent on worksheet, score and date of completion.

Are there any tutorials that can help teachers get started using Wizer?

Yes we have a range of blog posts and there are also some video tutorials on YouTube.

We can also schedule virtual training for groups of teachers if they get in touch with us through Twitter, Facebook or our website.

Do you attempt to control the quality of the materials which are shared communally through Wizer?

Wizer worksheetsWe believe in teachers and want Wizer to be a platform for teacher generated content. In the future, we may add more community quality control mechanisms. Just as Wikipedia has produced quality open-source information and replaced the old published encyclopedias, an open source platform for teaching content can reach the same level. We want to be the platform that makes that happen.

With any kind of community created content there is the potential for abuse. How do you monitor for this and is there any way user can report content or behaviour they feel may be abusive?

Any Wizer teacher can notify us of inappropriate content via the website or email. So far, we haven’t had any problems. As we continue to grow, we will develop reporting and controls as needed.

What’s the most important milestone you have achieved so far as a company?

Reaching over 45K users is obviously a huge milestone. The fact that we have already grown this big, without any marketing is particularly meaningful because it means teachers and technology experts are spreading the word themselves. For us, that is a strong validation that we are providing a valuable service that teachers need.

Can you share one point at which you feel you got something wrong and learned a valuable lesson from it?

As a Montessori teacher, I wasn’t focused on grades so we envisioned Wizer only as worksheets for practice time. But, many teachers also use our platform to prepare students for tests, so we added features for easy grading.

At the moment it looks like everything on wizer.me is free. Is that right and at what point and how do you intend to start making money to support the service?

Our current builder is completely free for teachers and students. Any teacher can create, assign and share as many Wizers as they wish. In the future more advanced features will be released and offered as premium paid services to the school or district. We intend to keeping our builder free.

Nira

Nira is an education and technology entrepreneur. Before founding Wizer, she founded and directed ‘Children’s Way” a Montessori school and ‘ShellEgg’ a tech startup and discovery platform for architects and interior designers.  Nira’s research in Teacher Cognition inspired her to found Wizer, the first education technology company that starts with understanding how teachers think and work, then makes intuitive tools to enhance their skills.

Tools and Practices for Autonomous Teacher Developement

This is the slide-deck from my plenary at the 8th TED ELT conference – Surveying the Landscape of CPD at TED – in Afyon – Turkey.

The plenary focuses on how teachers can and should use technological resources to access information and expertise to develop their own teaching.

I hope you find the slide-deck useful. It has a large number of links to tools and information sources, so please do download it and follow up on some of the links.

Download my ebooks for teachers:

Best wishes

Nik Peachey