LearningApps

The internet platform LearningApps allows to quickly create different types of learning applications such as multiple choice quizzes, classifications of terms and pictures, crossword puzzles, organisational exercises and games. However like any learning material learning apps are a means to an end. It is therefore crucial to match the content and form to the purpose. Long and difficult multiple choice quizzes might lead the students to guess the answers. Quizzes should therefore be short and to the point unless they are multiplayer quizzes where the competition raises the motivation. In my opinion learning apps are suitable to asses the students’ knowledge when introducing a new topic, repeat a topic or to help the students asses their learning success before an exam.

A big advantage of online exercises is that students can learn independently and still have a feedback of their learning success. LearningApps provides a variety of links for embeding the app in a learning enviornment, a blog or an other website. The QR-code can be added to any working sheet. This allows students to access the app with their smartphone.

Quizz: Papst, Vatikan, KonklaveThe following LearningApp is a multiplayer quizz testing the knowlede of the Pope and the Vatican. I would use this app to check the reading or listenig comprehension after reading a text or watching a video. The student can choose to play against the coputer or against other students. The different questions are answered by all players simultaneously. The points are given according to the accuracy and time needed to answer the question. An obvious advantage of this app is the motivational boost that competition adds to the quizz. For this to be succsessful the quizz should be anonced in advance. Unfortunately 12 questions are to few for a game with more than 3 or 4 players.

The following matching exercise would provide a good start for the topic of continents and are a reasonable means to asses the students’ knowledge in this field. The students have to match continent and ocean names to marked spots on the globe. The pictures help consolidate the existing concept of the world map while the different perspective of the continents require the students to think spatially.

Kontinente und Ozeane

The last app that I would like to introduce can be used on a daily basis. This calculating app generatesproblems that need to be solved by mental arithmetic. The student can choose whether he wants to see the whole problem or go step by step. The correct solution needs to be identified among 5 possible answers. The time needed to solve the problems is measured. The app is useful but takes a long time and presents little variation. A limitation of problems per round would give faster feedback and the copmletion of the task helps to keep the motivation of the students high.

Kopfrechnen

Free Software

Ok, to start off, you need to know that free software and freeware are not the same thing. Freeware can be downloaded for free and is to be used according to the terms of use that the program’s author defines. If not explicitly authorized by the software’s creator in the licence freeware must not be edited.
Free software on the other hand refers to software that anyone may use for any purpose. Anyone has the right to alter free software and share it in its original or edited form. To this end free software is always distributed with its source code.

Two examples for freeware are openoffice and artweaver, that are free versions of windows office and photoshop. The obvious perks are that the software is free and therefore affordable even for poor students and that it works much in the same way the proprietary software does. A disadvantage of free software is that espacially early project-versions are less userfriendly than their proprietary software pendant. This is mostly a direct result of the programming beeing a colaboration between many vouluntary programmers, professionals and amateurs alike.

Creative Commons Licences

On the internet you can find an incredible amount of pictures, videos and other footage on any topic. Sometimes relevant, sometimes irrelevant, sometimes appropriate, sometimes inappropriate. But can I really use all of this material as I please?

Contents belong to somebody and thus most of them are protected by law as intellectual property. This means that if I use content or redistribute it without the creators’ authorisation I am stealing somebody’s work: I am committing copyright infringement.

So then I can use absolutely none of it? What a waste!

Yes, you can use some of the online content according to the author’s conditions. A Creative Commons Licence (or CC-licence) allows an author to place his work at the publics disposal while still securing some of his own rights to it. People can then share, use and build up on the author’s licenced work without worrying about copyright infringement as long as they respect the specified terms of use, that condition the free use of the licenced material.

There are four different licence types:

Thi CC-icon for "Attribution" (BY)

The CC-icon for “Attribution” (BY); source: creativecommons.org

 

 

 

When you licence your work with the Attribution-icon anyone may use it for any purpose and even modify it as long as he or she clearly states your authorship.

 

 

 

 

The CC-icon for "Share-alike" (SA)

The CC-icon for “Share-alike” (SA); source: creativecommons.org

 

 

 

The icon “Share-alike” allows people to use, alter and distribute your work if the derivation is under the same CC-licence as the original.

 

 

The CC-icon for "noncommercial" (NC)

The CC-icon for “noncommercial” (NC); source: creativecommons.org

 

 

 

Any work designated with the “Noncommercial” icon can be used, altered, distributed and performed under the condition that it is not commercialised.

 

 

 

The CC-icon for " No Derivate Works" (ND)

The CC-icon for ” No Derivative Works” (ND); source: creativecommons.org

 

 

 

If an author doesn’t want to allow any changes to his work but still feels that people should have access to it, he can issue a “No Derivative Works” licence. Any changes to such material is unlawful and can be prosecuted.

 

 

 

 

These licence types lead to six valid combinations: BY, BY-ND, BY-SA, BY-NC, BY-SA-NC and BY-ND-NC.

As a teacher in Switzerland I don’t have to worry too much about copyright infringement because the state issues a general licence for his employees.
It is however crucial that pupils learn to use correctly and rightfully the material at their disposal and since I am a role model I should also endeavour to do so.

If I plan a lesson on the human respiratory system, I see to it that the pictures I use are under a Creative Commons licence. Whenever I use the pictures, I will clearly state the source for my students.

For example:

Diagram of alveoli and blood vessels; source: en.wikipedia.org, created by Pdefer

Diagram of alveoli and blood vessels;
source: en.wikipedia.org,
created by Pdefer

This picture has a CC-BY-SA-licence, which means that I can use, edit and distribute it (CC) when I name its source (BY) and allow others to work with my version too just like the original author allowed me (SA).

The Respiratory System; source: wikimedia.org, created by BruceBlaus

The Respiratory System;
source: wikimedia.org,
created by BruceBlaus

BruceBlaus has placed this picture under a CC-BY-licence, granting me the right to use, alter and distribute it freely (CC) on the condition that I name his authorship (BY).

Both of these pictures are perfect for class since I can use them legallyand even let the students change them as long as I (and my class) adhere to the terms of use that I specified above.

Videos and animations can also be very valuable to teaching. To incorporate such media into a blog I have two possibilities: either I can upload the video myself or I embed a URL in my blog.

The first option will take up a lot of working capacity on my blog site and might therefore slow it down. Furthermore I have to identify my source and indicate the authorship.
With an embedded video on the other hand I can save working capacity since I don’t put the file on my site but use the provider’s surfer. Also I needn’t worry about the declaration of the source since I am merely linking the video to my site and am not distributing it. The licenscee in this case is the provider site (in the example below youtube).

RSS feed – What’s that?

Say I love to surf the internet but have so many blogs to write I hardly ever find the time. So how can I ever keep up with all the news and latest posts of my favourite sites? “That’s impossible!” you say? Fear not for the depths of the internet hold a remedy for every pain: in this case RSS feeds.

RSS what?

RSS (Rich Site Summary); originally RDF Site Summary; often dubbed Really Simple Syndication, uses a family of standard web feed formats to publish frequently updated information: blog entries, news headlines, audio, video. An RSS document (called “feed”, “web feed”, or “channel”) includes full or summarized text, and metadata, like publishing date and author’s name.

Ok, enough with the tech talk! If that didn’t bore you to death you might want to check out the wikipedia article on RSS feeds that I quoted above. They just love fancy words.
However I intend to keep it simple.

So what does this really mean and why should I care?

Well, instead of checking your favorite sites daily and coming up empty two times out of three you can have them notify you whenever something interesting turns up. Just let your browser do the work.

Wha- really!? How do I do that?

By simply clicking on the RSS icon you can subscribe to your favourite blogs, news sites or any other site you happen to like. RSS feeds are then sent to you whenever something is posted or updated on these sites.


awsomenes in orange and white – the RSS icon (source: feedicons.com)

Wait a minute! How does the site know where to send the feeds if all I do is click a button?

Ok, I fibbed! There’s another thing you need to do before getting started: you need to set up an account on a RSS feed aggregator.

Yay! Gibberish again!

Just a big word but really not hard to get: an RSS feed aggregator (also called RSS reader or feed reader) is your home base. It’s a softwear or web application that collects your links so they are easier to view. Softwear like RSSOwl will be localised on your personal computer whereas web applications (such as feedly) work with cloud computing and are therefore accessible form any device with an internet connection (given you remember your password).

Get to the bottom line already!

All rigth, all right! Unlike with newsletters and mailing lists you can choose the contents you wish to receive without the provider knowing who collected it. RSS aggregators and feeds can save you tons of time by presenting you with relevant and up-to-date info. Just imagine you need to write some sort of paper for college: not only do you have your reverence list already set up in your account but also you needn’t check the sites manually anymore. On top of that you can organise your subscriptions on your chosen aggregator site and share them with whom ever you want. Plus you’ll never end up with a dead link ever again since your feed reader will verify them on a regular basis and update them if needed.

I mean how awesome is that?

Take me for an example: All the time I save checking my favourite sites for news and updates (that may or may not be there) I can now waste on blogging about the tool that made this possible…

Oops… How ironic.

maiden voyage – my very first blogpost on wordpress

Before starting to blog there are a few questions worthwhile answering:

First off, what is a blog?

A blog is a sort of online journal on one topic by one person or occasionally a small group. What ever it is that interests you, you can write about it, share your opinions, views and ideas with anyone who has a computer and a working internet connection. Meaning? Well, with a blog basically anyone can be a writer, a reporter, a critic, a publisher…

But what makes a blog a blog? What characteristics are unique to it?

Since I personally love reading food blogs I chose two of my favorite blogsites to illustrate the questions above:

GourmetGuerilla and
Sprinkle Bakes are two blogs that hold vast archives of creative recipes with marvelous photographs.

Like the articles on these two sites, most blog posts combine text with images and possibly other media (even though there are many different types of blogs such as art blogs, video blogs or projectblogs to name just a few). Sprinklebakes for instance complements her articles and recipes with pictures that document her procedure.

Whatever you publish appears in reverse chronological order on your blogsite: your latest posts will be on top while your older posts will be found further down the page. So you don’t have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page whenever you are looking for an older post, blogs have archives (usually in the sidebar) that list all posts by year and month. To further facilitate navigation the posts can be tagged with categories. This way posts can be organised by topic as seen in gourmetguerilla’s sidebar.

While many blogs are in fact personal online diaries (for instance a travel journal or an experiment log) others are used for advertisement. Succsessful bloggers like Mel from gourmetguerilla might be asked to try out a product and blog about it. Sometimes they are even presented with giveaways to raffle off to their followers.

But I belive what really made the concept of blogging so popular is its interactive side. The possibility to leave comments allows for the formation of blogging communities. You can share your ideas and discuss them with others and even link them to related blogs in your blog roll:

Indeed, bloggers do not only produce content to post on their blogs, but also build social relations with their readers and other bloggers.        
from Wikipedia, key word Blog

The blogosphere turns out to be an informative and topic-specific social network.