I delivered a Polycom workshop today, which was interesting to compare to my usual Marratech sessions that I do every two weeks. With the Polycom camera I like that both parties can have their mikes on at the same time and have a normal conversation. I also liked that my nose didn’t have to be 5 inches away from a Web cam, but that instead I was able to sit and talk as normally as I would in a regular meeting.
Drawbacks however, included the participants not being able to see the presenter and the PowerPoint at the same time and constantly getting disconnected.
We were covering three strategies from Classroom Instruction that Works: Nonlinguistic Representation, Generating & Testing Hypotheses, and Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers. These, I have to say, are three of my favorite strategies to cover, especially given the technology that can beautifully support these activities with students.
What seemed to be the most popular resources that I showed them were tools for organizing & brainstorming with students. Following an advance organizer activity in which groups came up to the camera and showed their paper graphic organizers (which were very cool!), I showed them some tools that they could use for the same activity, but then could share and edit as needed. First, I showed them Inspiration, which many districts already use….by far the best tool of its type, I think.
For those schools who may not be able to afford Inspiration, however, there are some emerging and exciting tools coming out that not only allow you to create a mind-map as you brainstorm, but also allow you to invite collaborators to help you. Gliffy and Bubbl.us are examples. Howard Pitler and I were experimenting today with Bubbl.us, sharing maps we’d made. It’s still in its beta stage, but I think it has great potential. I personally prefer its more intuitive key strokes to Gliffy.
Another tool that teachers don’t often know about is Microsoft Word’s diagram tool. Open a Word doc and go to INSERT > DIAGRAM. There are a number of templates from which to choose and you can add as many “bubbles” as you need. This is perfect for those teachers wanting to dive into electronic forms of graphic organizers, but feel most comfortable with the Office products. The diagram tool is not sharable, unlike the Web-based tools, but may be a good “get-your-feet-wet” activity with teachers & students.
One high note of the workshop came at the very end. I had told them when I introduced myself that I was thrilled to be working once again with Southerners, having grown up in Georgia. As we were saying good-bye, I overheard a teacher remark, “She should say ‘bye y’all”…so I did. There’s nothing like a warm “‘bye-y’all” among Southerners!